Golf Buzz

April 7, 2014 - 2:06pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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How to get ready for your golf season
PGA of America Archive
See your local PGA Professional to establish achievable goals for your new golf season.

Shake off the cobwebs, folks. Spring is here, temperatures are rising – albeit slower in some places than others – and it’s time to get out on the course and start playing some golf.

In preparation for your new golf season, we reached out to PGA Master Professional Michael Doctor from Skaneateles Country Club in Skaneateles, N.Y. – the 2013 National PGA Golf Professional of the Year – to find out what can be done to get ready for a successful season on the links, no matter your level of ability.

RELATED: Find a PGA Professional | Get Golf Ready| Instruction videos | Trade-in Network For those folks in colder winter climates, what advice would you offer up as they prepare for a new golf season?

Doctor: Start with putting. You don’t even have to leave home to work on putting, which is one of the most important elements of the game. Set up an area in your house or office to practice. Invest in a few teaching aids or ask you golf professional if he has any putting aids you might be able to use to help develop your stroke during the off season.

Work on your short game. If you have a place to hit golf balls indoors -- like a dome or even into a net -- spend the majority of your time on the short game. Most domes have targets set up throughout the facility. Work on hitting different kinds of shots to those targets. Most importantly: Make your practice session fun. Are there any particular exercises you would suggest they work on?

Doctor: I think it’s very important that golfers work with a trainer during the off-season. One of the best things I have ever done for my body, my confidence and my game was joining a workout class three days a week during the winter months. Try to find someone who understands the game of golf or specializes in working with golfers. Walking or running, or any cardio exercise, will be very helpful for building stamina especially for those golfers who like to walk when they play. Develop a stretching program with the help of a trainer to improve flexibility, which is so important when it comes to playing good golf. I personally like working with lightweights, kettle bells, a medicine ball and dumbbells. What about club maintenance? Is now the time to get new grips? Check loft, lie and shaft? Why is that important?

Doctor: I always like to put new grips on my clubs in the spring. I believe that it’s extremely important that you have the right size grips. I make sure that the grip is the right size for the player but I also believe that it’s very important that the grip feels right to the player. For example: I wear a XX Large golf glove but I like grips that are only slightly oversize in the right hand and standard size in the left hand. It helps me to feel the club head when I swing the club. I take the time to interview the customer. I ask them what type of grip they may like and what they would like the club to feel like when they are swinging it. If they aren’t sure if they will like the grip or I’m not sure of the size, I put one on their favorite iron and let them try it. The golfer’s only contact with the golf club is through the grip. It’s important to make sure they like it and make sure it’s right.

Ask your golf professional to check your wedges for the right loft and bounce. I think the bounce on wedges is extremely important so that they fit the conditions of your home course. I also believe that the shaft in your wedges should be a little softer. Ask your golf professional if he has wedges you can demo.

Ask your golf professional to check the lie on your clubs a couple times a year. Sometimes a swing change might have an effect on your lie angle. Forged irons should be checked more often because they tend to change from use. How important is it to be properly fit for clubs before the season starts?

Doctor: This is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t believe in fitting clubs inside, hitting golf balls into a net unless you have a launch monitor and video the golf swing. I like to fit outdoors -- I want ball-flight feedback. I like the customer to have practiced a little and maybe played a round or two before the fitting. Once we determine the proper fit I like to have the player take the club on the golf course to see how they like it. If I have a demo set I send the player out with them. I’m guilty of taking my time to be sure we properly fit the golfer. Nothing bothers me more than having a customer play with a set of clubs that don’t properly fit them or they don’t like.

My advice to my customers: don’t be in hurry to buy a set of clubs. Take your time, kick the tires and work with your PGA golf professional to get the best possible set of clubs to make playing golf enjoyable and fun. Do you encourage golfers of any ability to set goals for a new season?

Doctor: I encourage every one of my students from the youngest to the oldest to set realistic goals for their game. Discuss those goals with your golf professional to be sure they are realistic and set a course to accomplish the goals you agree upon. It’s my job to help the student set realistic goals. I keep using the word “realistic” because nothing will slow down progress faster then setting goals that the student has no possible chance of accomplishing.

Example: I took up running many years ago. I set a goal of running and walking for one hour. At first I walked most of the time. Within a month, I ran three-quarters of the time. In two months, I could run for on hour. I accomplished my goal of running for an hour.

A few years ago, I wanted to improve my putting from six feet. I practiced making putts from two feet then three feet, five and six feet. As I made more and more putts from two, three and five feet, I started making more putts from six feet.

I had a student who was a freshman in high school and played on the golf team. He came for a golf lesson one day and I noticed that he was very upset with his game. When I asked him why, he said he wasn’t playing as well as two of the seniors on the team. We looked at the scores they shot as freshman and I showed him that he was actually playing better as a freshman then they did as freshmen. And if he set realistic goals, he would be better as a senior than they are now. Realistic goals are the key to successes in everything we do in life especially in sports.

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

Matt Jones
Getty Images
Matt Jones exults Sunday after chipping in to win the Shell Houston Open playoff.

How do you finish off a playoff that gets you an invitation to the Masters? By chipping in over a bunker from 42 yards out for birdie, if you're Matt Jones.

SHELL HOUSTON OPEN: Jones wins playoff, earns trip to Augusta

Of course, that's after making a 46-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation to even give himself a chance at the playoff against Matt Kuchar in the first place.

In the playoff, Jones put his tee shot on the No. 18 hole in the right hand fairway bunker, which resulted in missing the green short and to the right. So Jones decided not to mess around.

SUNDAY'S TOP PHOTOS: Shots from the PGA, LPGA and European Tour stops

"I walked up there and told my caddy I was going to chip it in," Jones said afterward.


Bubba Watson
USA Today Images
Bubba Watson made an unscheduled guest appearance Sunday at the 2014 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.

Bubba Watson was watching Sunday morning's telecast of the 2014 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship from his hotel room in Augusta, Ga., when he realized he'd rather be there in person to cheer on the 88 boys and girls competing.

2014 DRIVE, CHIP AND PUTT: Photos of the competition

So the 2012 Masters champion made the short trip to Augusta National Golf Club and stood on the sideline, watching some of the country's best youth golfers hitting drives at the Tournament Practice Facility and impressed by their talent.

2015 DRIVE, CHIP AND PUTT: Registration is under way

While they waited for their turn at the tee, Watson came by and shook each golfer's hand -- in some cases, tapping them on the shoulder to make them turn around. You can imagine the shock and surprise on each girl's face as they suddenly realized who it was wishing them luck.

FACT SHEET: Rules and regulations for 2015 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship

Watson wasn't the only one enthralled by the inaugural event. Fuzzy Zoeller and Fred Couples were also in attendance Sunday, along with Augusta National member and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Here's the video from the Golf Channel broadcast, and notice how emotional Bubba gets when talking about youth golf.



April 5, 2014 - 1:18am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Henrik Stenson
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Henrik Stenson has plenty to celebrate on his birthday, seeing as he won both the FedExCup and the Race to Dubai championships last fall.
Saturday is the 38th birthday of Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who made history last fall when he became the first player ever to win the FedExCup on the PGA Tour and the Race to Dubai on the European Tour in the same season.
Unfortunately for Henrik, it wasn't the kind of birthday surprise that he'd want to remember. He shot a 4-over 76 in Saturday's third round of the Shell Houston Open and dropped into a tie for 65th.
Stenson romped to an impressive six-shot victory in the DP World Tour Championship Dubai last November, finishing in style with a tap-in eagle on the final hole.
"To achieve the double-double if you liken winning the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai on top of winning the PGA Tour Championship to capture the FedExCup takes some beating, I guess," Stenson said. "I am just very, very pleased with the way I played." 
That victory came less than two months after his command performance in the Tour Championship, which he won by three shots to capture the FedExCup. Between the two victories and the seasonlong bonuses, Stenson earned more than $16 million, and his dynamic double capped off an amazing return to the pinnacle of pro golf for the second time in his mercurial career.
Stenson's amazing season began with a tie for third in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open the week before the British Open. He followed with runner-up finishes at the British Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a third place at the PGA Championship and a win at the Deutsche Bank Championship. 
"Since the Scottish Open, it's been just an incredible run," he said after winning the Tour Championship. "I'm speechless. It was a tough day out there. To hang in there the way I did, I'm really satisfied. ... It hasn't quite sunk in yet. I had to fight hard mentally to keep all this aside, and I managed to do that. It's going to feel better as the week goes on. I'm pretty sure about that." 
Stenson's off to a decent start this season – over the last month he tied for 16th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Championship, and he's tied for 55th after two rounds at the Shell Houston Open after rounds of 71-72. And, oh yeah, he also hit a dead-cold shank at Doral.
But as we saw last year, he's just getting warmed up. So happy birthday, Henrik. We can't wait to see what's next.
April 5, 2014 - 12:44am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Jimmy Fallon chips in from a bunker
Tonight Show via YouTube
Jimmy Fallon looked small in that huge bunker, but he came up big and knocked it in.
Just last week, your faithful Golf Buzz entertainment correspondent brought you the scoop on Jimmy Fallon's burgeoning interest in golf. On Friday night, Fallon showed his brand new – and career best – golf highlight on "The Tonight Show."
Fallon, as we explained, is a longtime golfer but is trying to get even more into the game. He apparently plays fairly regularly with TV star Michael J. Fox and celebrity chef Mario Batali, and they were on the links with him early on Friday – even though, Fallon said on the show, it was cold, rainy and generally miserable.
To make matters worse, Fallon found himself in a deep, daunting bunker on the fourth hole at Bayonne Golf Club in Bayonne, N.J. So while the rest of his group gathered up on the green, Fallon clomped into the bunker, lined up his shot – and knocked it in the cup, much to the delight and amazement of his playing partners.
Making the moment even more special is that Batali caught the bunker blast on his iPhone camera. Fallon didn't say what he shot, or who won, but – as any golfer knows – all that really matters is that the shot of the day was captured on video. So congrats to Fallon – and great job, Mario.
Here's the shot:
Categories: Bayonne Golf Club
April 4, 2014 - 11:04pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan
USA Today Sports Images
"Obviously, we're disappointed and frustrated" over the revelation that Paulina Gretzky is on Golf Digest's newest cover instead of an LPGA Tour player, said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan.
LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan backed up his players on Friday, issuing a statement that echoed the sentiments of those who criticized Golf Digest for putting Paulina Gretzky on the cover of its May issue.
"Obviously, we're disappointed and frustrated by the editorial direction (and timing) Golf Digest has chosen with the announcement of its most recent magazine cover," Whan said in a statement at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the tour's first major tournament of the year. 
"If a magazine called Golf Digest is interested in showcasing females in the game, yet consistently steers away from the true superstars who've made history over the last few years, something is clearly wrong," his statement continued. "'Growing the game' means a need for more role models and in these exciting times for women's golf, the LPGA is overflowing with them." 
With the magazine having become a big talking point throughout the world of golf over the last couple of days, Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde issued a statement of his own on Friday.
"Sports figures, celebrities and models have appeared on Golf Digest covers since the magazine's beginning," Tarde said. "Paulina ranks at the high end of the golf celebrity scene today, and she has a compelling story to tell. She also might get some new people interested in the game." 
The cover photo shows Gretzky – the golf-playing daughter of hockey star Wayne Gretzky and fiancée of PGA Tour player Dustin Johnson – in a sports bra and tight-fitting capri-length pants.
Lorena Ochoa in 2008 was the last LPGA Tour player to appear on the magazine's cover, while Golf Digest featured Golf Channel personality Holly Sonders in May 2013 and model Kate Upton with Arnold Palmer on the December 2013 cover.
"It's frustrating for female golfers," third-ranked Stacy Lewis said. "It's kind of the state of where we've always been. We don't get respect for being the golfers that we are. Obviously, Golf Digest is trying to sell magazines. But at the same time you'd like to see a little respect for the women's game."