Golf Buzz

March 5, 2014 - 2:36pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Phil Mickelson
USA Today
So far, 2014 has been less than stellar for Phil Mickelson. Will that all change this week at Doral?

This will be a fun -- yet interesting -- week on the PGA Tour. Why? Well, the Tour returns to a popular venue that won't look anything like the way they remember it this time a year ago.

Two years ago, Donald Trump acquired Doral and hired designer Gil Hanse to make extensive changes and renovations to the course long known as the Blue Monster, which plays host to the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

This week, for the first time, the players and the fans at home, get to see these new changes. What kind of impact will the tweaks have on the outcome? Tiger Woods, for one, probably wasn't happy to hear about any changes at Doral. Over the course of his career, Woods has been four-time winner there and -- in fact -- is the defending champ this time around.

RELATED: Photos of the new Doral | Video: Trump talks about DoralFamiliar place no one recognizes

However, with the overhaul at Doral, coupled with Tiger's recent back issues in on-course struggles, it's anyone's guess as to how well he'll perform. Could he win? Sure. Will he? Who knows?

In the meantime, here are five players other than Tiger you may want to pay attention to this week.

5. Nick Watney
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T24 at the Honda Classic
Reason to watch: OK, so Watney's T24 last week is his best finish this season. Certainly not anything to write home about. He's been a winner and a runner up at Doral the way we used to know the course. While the layout might be different, I have a feeling that the venue -- in name alone -- could bring back some good vibes for Watney. While that T24 was his best finish this season, it should also be noted that he's made the cut in seven of his eight starts. He hasn't done anything spectacular, but he's also been around for a lot of weekends. He just needs to put four rounds together.

4. Sergio Garcia
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Fourth at WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Garcia has made four starts this season and his worst finish is a T11 in the CIMB Classic. The other three have been top 10s. That's some stellar golf. His entire career, Garcia has been one of the best players in the world with a driver in hand. That will bode well at a long Doral. His downfall -- always -- has been the short stick. It seems as though he's had the putter under control this season based on his finishes. Let's see if that translates at Doral.

3. Jason Day
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Winner of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Reason to watch: Day is making his first start since winning that scintillating Match Play final over Victor Dubuisson in Tucson a couple of weeks ago. This will be Day's fourth start overall on the season. Aside from the win, he also tied for second at the Farmers Insurance Open. Since the Match Play was clearly the biggest win of his career to date, I expect Day to carry that confidence into Doral and, also, into the major season.

2. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
14th at the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Over the course of his career, Phil Mickelson has owned the West Coast Swing. That wasn't the case this year. In three starts, he cracked the top-20 once -- that was a T19 at Pebble Beach. Of course, he did withdraw at Torrey Pines citing back pain. Mickelson tees it up this week after missing the cut at last week's Honda Classic. If the new Doral is anything like the old -- and in certain aspects it has to be -- the risk/reward factor is huge. That's the type of golf Mickelson thrives on. He takes chances and doesn't worry about going down in flames. That has made him one of the most exciting players to watch for the last several years. He's got to get some good vibes going before the majors get here and this would be a good place to start.

1. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T2 in a playoff at the Honda Classic
Reason to watch: In the grand scheme of things, McIlroy was brilliant at last week's Honda Classic, even if he did play the final three holes 2-over par (4-over 74 for the final round). Needless to say, that playoff loss to Russell Henley had to sting a bit. McIlroy hit one of the best shots of his career when he had a chance to win in regulation -- a 5-wood from just over 240 yards that settled 12 feet from the hole to set up what could have been a winning eagle. Anyway, he's eager to get over last week. And, with the game McIlroy has displayed so far in the last three months, it looks like he's back on track to being the player we all knew pre-2013.

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


March 5, 2014 - 11:30am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Victor Dubuisson
Titleist made a special wedge for French golfer Victor Dubuisson.

Two week's ago at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Frenchman Victor Dubuisson lost in the final to Jason Day, a match that went 23 holes.

Though he lost the match, Dubuisson gained fans worldwide for his jaw-dropping Seve Ballesteros-esque short game skills when the match went extra holes.

RELATED: Dubuisson's magical pitch shots | Creamer's 75-foot putt | Your "hero" moments

On the 19th and 20th holes, respectively, Dubuisson made the most unlikely of pars, getting up and down from junk -- or, on the first of those holes, a cactus plant -- to keep the match going.

On Tuesday, to commemorate Dubuisson's unbelievable shots in the Match Play, Titleist presented the 23-year-old golfer with a wedge emblazoned with a cactus plant. See the tweet below from @TitleistonTour:



The idea of this is pretty cool. If Dubuisson chooses to make this a "game" wedge, whenever he finds himself in a difficult spot, facing a tough chip or pitch, he can merely look at the cactus on the wedge and think, "I've seen worse situations and pulled off the shots!"

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

March 4, 2014 - 11:24pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Jessica Korda and Dustin Johnson
Courtesy of USA Golf
adidas ambassadors Jessica Korda and Dustin Johnson joined representatives from adidas and USA Golf in announcing that adidas will provide the clothing for the 2016 U.S. Olympics golf teams.
adidas Golf has been named the official uniform provider for the athletes, coaches and staff of USA Golf – meaning that adidas will clothe the players representing the United States when golf returns to the Olympics in 2016, along with the coaches and support staff.
"We are elated that the game's best players will showcase their talents in our apparel on the world's greatest stage," adidas Golf President Ben Sharpe on Tuesday as the agreement was announced at Trump National Doral in Miami. "The storied history of adidas has long been associated with the greatest athletes in the world, and we're proud to support the athletes of the USA Golf Team as they compete for their place in Olympic history."
The men and women playing for the United States in Rio de Janeiro will receive layering pieces, polos, outerwear and pants that adidas says will be "designed and engineered to the highest levels of innovation the brand has ever developed." 
The Olympic line of apparel has yet to be unveiled. adidas also is creating a USA Golf-branded line of apparel that will be available to the public later this year.
USA Golf is a collaboration of The PGA of America, the PGA Tour, the LPGA and the U.S. Golf Association. It is recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Golf Federation as the national governing body that will name the players and manage both the men's and women's U.S. Olympic golf teams. 
PGA of America President Ted Bishop
The PGA of America
PGA of America Ted Bishop was seeking to give recreational amateurs who anchor long putters more time to adapt to the new rule 14-1b.
Last month, PGA of America President Ted Bishop and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem spoke at the U.S. Golf Association's annual meeting, and proposed that the USGA implement a "grandfather" period to provide amateurs with more time to adapt to playing without an anchored stroke. 
Word has come down that the request has been denied, and Rule 14-1b – which bans the use of the anchored putting stroke – will go into effect as expected on Jan. 1, 2016.
After receiving the news, Bishop sent a letter to his PGA of America membership, the body of which is included here:
"I am writing to inform you that the United States Golf Association (USGA) has decided not to extend the implementation date of Rule 14-1b (anchoring) for amateur golfers beyond Jan. 1, 2016. Last month at the USGA Annual Meeting in Pinehurst, N.C., PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem and I outlined our proposal for a “grandfather” period.
"Both the PGA of America and the PGA TOUR have consistently shared strong feelings about this matter with the USGA and we appreciated the opportunity to formally present our views before the USGA’s full Executive Committee.
"While we are disappointed with the USGA’s decision not to extend the implementation date beyond Jan. 1, 2016, I know that all PGA Professionals are committed to helping amateur players choose a permissible putting stroke that will help them continue to enjoy the game well into the future.
"Indeed, PGA Professionals go to work every day knowing that we are the most respected instructors in the game. This is a new challenge and opportunity that we will embrace, and along with helping PGA TOUR players, we will assist golfers of all abilities in advance of the implementation date of Rule 14-1b.
"Finally, we believe that one of the profound outcomes that emerged from the discussion of “anchoring,” is that both the PGA of America and the PGA TOUR have a more meaningful seat at the Rules table for future decisions affecting the game. We strongly believe that such enhanced communication among our respected organizations is essential to the long-term viability of golf."
Bishop and Finchem were seeking to give recreational amateurs who anchor long putters more time to adapt to the new rule, believing that an extension would be beneficial to those golfers.
"The leadership at the PGA of America and the PGA Tour both believe that it would be reasonable to offer recreational golfers who anchor a longer period of time to convert to the approved method of making a stroke," Bishop wrote to PGA members back in January. "For example, when the 'Grooves Rule' was instituted in 2009, the USGA allowed a 15-year 'grandfather period' for amateurs to switch to conforming golf clubs.
"We believe our request for a 'grandfather period' can further assist you, the PGA Professional, in transitioning recreational golfers who do anchor, to the approved method," he added.
Bishop said the request wasn't intended to reignite the debate on anchoring, and that the PGA of America had accepted the USGA decision to invoke Rule 14-1b in 2016. His hope, he said, was that the USGA would simply give amateurs a longer period to make the transition.
March 4, 2014 - 8:15pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
U.S. men's soccer jersey
Courtesy of U.S. Soccer
Saying that the new U.S. Soccer jerseys look like golf shirts is a compliment, not a criticism.
U.S. Soccer and Nike unveiled the uniforms that the men's national team will wear in the World Cup this summer in Rio de Janeiro as well as in other matches. Haters began instantly hating on the jerseys because they look like – the horror! – golf shirts.
"The verdict is unanimous: The top looks like a golf shirt," Brooks Peck wrote on Yahoo's Dirty Tackle soccer blog
"Even the Associated Press went with the headline 'New US World Cup jersey looks like golf shirt' for their report on the matter," Peck noted. But, he added, "this look is just as traditional for the pitch as it is for the golf course."
Andrew Das, an editor who focuses on soccer and other international sports at The New York Times, quipped on Twitter that the new jersey "will also work for the Ryder Cup team," and added the hashtag "#golfshirt". He later tweeted this: "Any truth to rumor that Ukraine backed out [of its game with the United States Wednesday in Cyprus] "after seeing USMNT's fearsome new all-white kit? #FearTheGolfShirt."
Soccer fan Jordan Robbins hopped on Twitter to opine that "The new USMNT jerseys are awful. @Nike assumes we won't make it out of the group so they made it a golf shirt."
Deadspin also got in on the criticism, as writer Barry Petchesky called the jersey a "bland, golf shirt-looking" thing and noted that reaction "has not been kind." The one saving grace, he said, is that, with the all-white shirt, shorts and socks, maybe the team "will have the last laugh when it hits 100" in Brazil.
As a long-time and dedicated golf shirt wearer, I have to laugh at all this. Golf shirts are great – they're comfortable, versatile and good-looking. And many of the modern versions are so awesome that they actively help you keep cool and comfy even when it's stinkin' hot outside. As far as I'm concerned, the only bad golf shirt is one I don't have yet.
I might just buy one of these babies to show my support. If you'd like one, too, here's where to go get it. And if that New York Times guy has you thinking about a Ryder Cup shirt, you can get yours right here. Unlike the soccer jerseys, there's no question that they look great.
March 4, 2014 - 3:33pm
Posted by:
John Kim's picture
The Perfect Putt
Photo: Courtesy Grantland YouTube Channel
Scoring a 1 is tough enough in putt-putt, but 18 in a row? Rick Baird has done it.

The old adage is: Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. But sometimes, good - or even great - isn't the goal. Perfect is.

Take Rick Baird, a member of the PPA. The PPA - otherwise known as the Professional Putters Association, the orgainization that puts on tournaments around miniature golf - known by many (by the brand name) Putt-Putt.

In 2007, Baird was the PPA Player of the Year. That's pretty good. But it's what he accomplished in 2011 - and only now getting the full press it deserves - that really boggles the mind. Baird acheived perfection. That's right. He scored an 18 in a round of miniature golf. 18 up - 18 aces. It's only been done three times...ever.

Moreover, the story of Baird's perfection is brilliantly told through the lens of a Grantland mini-documentary - which also details how nearly impossible the math says it is to accomplish what Baird did that day. They also use a brilliant animation to show each hole and the putt that went in. Really well done.



I actually tried to imagine the pressure that goes through one's mind as they step up to a geometrically devious golf hole with no real architectual ryhme or reason to it - with the goal being, "let's make history." Every year, someone is going to have a putt to win the Masters. Every two years, a putt at the Ryder Cup will feel like the whole world is watching. But this was really a putt that might not be seen again for a generation. Amazing.

So this is a couple of years old - but it's new to me, so it's news to me. Congratulations Rick Baird. You weren't simply good that day...not even simply great. You were perfect.  

You can follow John Kim on Twitter at @johnkim