Golf Buzz

January 7, 2015 - 8:26am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Bubba Watson
USA Today Sports Images
Bubba Watson is going for two wins in as many 2014-15 PGA Tour starts this week at Kapalua's Plantation Course in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

After a nearly two-month break, the 2014-15 PGA Tour season resumes this week at the gorgeous Kapalua Plantation Course on the island of Maui in Hawaii with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

There are only 34 players in the 2013-14 winners-only field, highlighted by Masters champ Bubba Watson.

RELATED: Hyundai T of C tee times | 10 to watch in 2015 | 5 storylines of 2015

Zach Johnson returns to Maui as the defending champ at the 7,452 yards, par-73 Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore designed course.

Before the tournament tees off on Friday, here are five players you'll want to keep an eye on in Maui.

5. Geoff Ogilvy
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
First start
Reason to watch: Ogilvy won in back-to-back starts at Kapalua in 2009-10. Until late last season, the 2006 U.S. Open champ had been deep in a slump. Ogilvy broke out of that slump with a win in the Barracuda Championship (played opposite the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational) last August. That timely win propelled him to a previously believed unlikely spot in the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup, where he would tie for second at the Deutsche Bank Championship and play his way into the Tour Championship. Ogilvy picked up some much-needed confidence with those victories. To begin the new season this week in Maui at a venue where he's won twice must feel great. That's why I like Ogilvy to continue his resurgence this week.

4. Bubba Watson
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Won the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Well, the two-time Masters champ is one-for-one this season having won in China in early November. After a long break, we'll see Watson at the long-ball friendly Plantation Course, where he tied for fourth when he last played the event in 2013. Watson got off to a red-hot start last season, finishing in the top 10 in seven of his first 10 starts, highlighted by wins at the Northern Trust Open and the Masters. He cooled off a touch, understandably, after that hot start, but the start of the year traditionally seems to suit Watson. Plus, I want to see him try to recreate that driver off the tee-driver off the deck-putt sequence on Kapalua's 18th hole from 2011. That was awesome.

3. Jimmy Walker
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T4 at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Reason to watch: It'll be darn near impossible for Walker to top his 2013-14 season, one in which he won three times, and recorded seven other top 10s. This will be Walker's second straight start at Kapalua and I'm interested in seeing if he learned anything about the course from his T21 showing a year ago. He should be a nice, relaxing week for Walker, who heads over to Oahu next week as the defending champ of the Sony Open.

2. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Missed cut at The McGladrey Classic
Reason to watch: This will be just the second start of the new season for Johnson, who returns to Kapalua as the tournament's defending champ. As he's proven time and again, there's no ballpark on the PGA Tour too big for Johnson. Last year's win in Maui was the first of three consecutive top-10 finishes for Johnson. A high finish at Kapalua could lead to another nice, little run.

1. Matt Kuchar
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T21 at the Open
Reason to watch: Kuchar has played in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions four times in the last five seasons. All four of those starts yielded no worse than a T6 finish. There's no reason to believe that trend won't continue -- or even improve -- this week. Kuchar is one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour and has been for years. He rarely misses a cut and -- more often than not -- is in the mix. 

January 7, 2015 - 8:11am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Bryan Brothers
This might be the most impressive chip trick shot we've ever seen.

The golf trick-shot duo known as the "Bryan Brothers" wowed us throughout 2014 with their magic. We expect that Bryans -- Wesley and George -- will continue that momentum into the new year.

Over the past few days, the duo has been using their Facebook page to count down their top-5 Instagram videos from 2014.

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

We didn't think it was possible that we had missed one of their mind-blowing shots, but after seeing the entry for No. 4 last night, we realized quickly that there was an oversight. 

With that, you really need to see this slam-dunk trick:


This is our concrete dunk shot!! TAG somebody you want to play golf with this weekend! #dunked #golf #trickshots

A video posted by Bryan Bros Golf (@bryanbrosgolf) on

And, to see all five tricks on the countdown, see the video below: 

Scott Stallings at the Kapalua Resort
Scott Stallings via Instagram
Time flies when you're having fun, if you're Scott Stallings at Kapalua.
Scott Stallings is out in Hawaii this week for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and, naturally, he's been getting in some practice. On Tuesday, he spent the afternoon out on the Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort – and captured his round on camera.
He then posted the video on social media. But, knowing that few of us have four hours to dedicate to watching it, he sped it up a bit. Well, make that a lot.
No, in fact, he cranked it up to Warp Speed. It looks like one of those old Benny Hill skits on steroids. I don't know if there's anything to be learned about Stallings' golf game, or Kapalua for that matter, but it's mesmerizing to watch. And hey, it's not like it'll cost you a lot of time to check it out.

My afternoon in Maui!

A video posted by scottstallings (@scottstallings) on

John Breedlove via Twitter
We're not sure how well "Hunter SnowMahan" plays golf, but we bet he's great at the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Seeing as how there's snow over a good part of the northern hemisphere these days, no doubt many of you have ventured out and built a snowman. What you haven't done, however, is build an homage to your favorite golfer out of the white stuff.
Over in Germany, a sergeant in the U.S. Army named John Breedlove took to Twitter the other day to show us the "SnowMahan" his six-year-old daughter assembled in honor of PGA Tour player Hunter Mahan. No mere snowman, this backyard creation boasts a Ping cap and a Ping Eye 2 7-wood.
In his Twitter bio, Breedlove describes himself as the "world's okayest golfer," but clearly his love of the sport has rubbed off on his daughter. No doubt they'll be rooting Mahan on as he begins his 2015 campaign this week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii – where he'll be trying to keep a dreaded snowman off his card.
Augusta National, No. 12
Getty Images
The beauty and treachery of its 12th hole helps make Augusta National a consistent presence at the top of Golf Digest's list of America's best courses.
As long as most of us have played golf, Golf Digest's course rankings have served as something of a bucket list. When the new rankings come out every two years, we peruse the collection of top 100 courses – wistfully wishing we could somehow get on some of those elite layouts and also feeling a bit of satisfaction after finally putting a tee in the hallowed ground of some of the courses to make the list.
Digest is celebrating what it's calling the "Golden Anniversary" of its biennial course rankings (the nation's oldest course ranking system, it debuted in 1966) this week by revealing its newest edition of what is now called "America's Greatest 100 Courses." There are a number of changes to the 2015-2016 ranking, which no doubt will prompt much debate in clubhouses and grillrooms nationwide over the next few months.
The biggest change is right at the top, where Augusta National reclaimed the No. 1 spot from longtime top choice Pine Valley, which now slots in as No. 2. Another change in the top 10 sees the East Course at Merion move up from sixth to fifth, switching places with Oakmont.
There are many more moves up and down, and off and on, the top 100 – and even more throughout the second 100. The rankings have seen continual change over the years, Golf Digest Architecture Editor Ron Whitten writes in an expansive introduction to the list. That, he explains, is in part because 51 of the current top 100 courses weren't even around when the inaugural list was issued.
In fact, Whitten reveals, only 24 courses have appeared on every one of the lists – and, he notes, several well-known courses haven't always been ranked. Among them are Shinnecock Hills, which is now all the way up to No. 4; National Golf Links of America, now No. 8; and Chicago Golf Club, now No. 14.
Here's another tidbit I found quite interesting – seven courses joined the top 100 this year, but only two of those were built in the past 30 years: Wisconsin's No. 42 Erin Hills, which opened in 2006, and Florida's No. 100 Streamsong Red, which opened in 2012. What took the other five so long to be recognized? 
Whitten doesn't explore these specific courses in his intro, but likely it's a combination of maturity and improvements; slippage among some of the courses that fell down, or off, the list; changes to the ratings tastes and criteria; and changes to the roster of raters – he notes that there were 125 raters when the list began, and 10 times that many now.
Another interesting fact: Course architect Seth Raynor had three courses join the new top 100 list – and he's been dead for 89 years. How'd that happen? All three – No. 53 Camargo Club, No. 64 Yeamans Hall and No. 99 Shoreacres – have been recently renovated by Tom Doak. As Whitten says, they're all classic designs that have been fully retrofitted for the modern game.
The new top 100 list appears in the February issue, but you can see it online right here. Take a look, and let us know what you think.
Value Guide
What are these wedges worth? Check their value with the Value Guide research tool.

Have some golf clubs lying around that you'd like to trade in for cash or credit towards the purchase of new golf equipment from a local PGA Professional-staffed golf shop or golf retailer? It's as easy as 1-2-3 with the Value Guide.

1. Find the trade-in value for all of your clubs

First, go to the Value Guide site and choose the "Trade-In" tab. You should see a screen like this:

You can look up the trade-in value on virtually any golf club made in the past 10 years. And because the Value Guide is the national standard for golf club values, you'll know you're getting the fair market value.

2. Complete the quick and easy online process

Once you've decided on which clubs to trade, you can print a free FedEx Return Merchandise Authorization label, then drop your clubs off at your local FedEx Office location where they will be shipped in for payment. If your trade-ins are worth $50 or more, you will receive free shipping, and if they are worth $100 or more, you will also get a free box and packaging services. Or you can find a local PGA Trade-In Network Facility near you to bring in your clubs to trade in person.

3. Get paid and buy new equipment

You can select to be paid by either check or with a PGA credit certificate. Checks are mailed out every Friday and PGA credit certificates are e-mailed out the day your clubs are received. If you select the PGA credit certificate option, you will receive a bonus 5%-10% in value, and you can then print and redeem the credit certificate at any of over 5,000 participating PGA Trade-In Network locations nationwide towards the purchase of new golf equipment or other services. 

Just use this "Find a Pro" page to locate the PGA Trade-In Network locations nearest you: