Golf Buzz

January 29, 2013 - 4:20pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Vijay Singh
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Vijay Singh, former world No. 1 golfer, has admitted to using a banned substance in this week's Sports Illustrated.

According to an article in this week's Sports Illustrated, former Masters and PGA Champion Vijay Singh has been named as one of several athletes to use a banned substance from a two-man company  called S.W.A.T.S. -- Sports with Alternatives to Steroids.

Golf.com's Ryan Reiterman blogged:

The two men, Christopher Key and Mitch Ross, run their company from a gym in Alabama. They sell products such as deer antler spray and hologram chips that they claim will help athletes perform better on the field.

The deer antler spray contains IGF-1, which SI describes as a "natural, anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth."

It is also a banned substance by all major pro sports leagues.

Despite warnings from the PGA Tour that the deer antler spray was a banned substance, SI reports that Singh ordered several products from S.W.A.T.S. last November.

(Vijay Singh, however, remains a vocal supporter. In November, Singh paid Ross $9,000 for the spray, chips, beam ray and powder additive -- making him one of the few athletes who is compensating S.W.A.T.S. He says he uses the spray banned by the PGA "every couple of hours... every day," sleeps with the beam ray on and has put chips on his ankles, waist and shoulders. "I'm looking forward to some change in my body," Singh says. "It's really hard to feel the difference if you're only doing it for a couple of months.")

To read all of Reiterman's report, click here.

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

January 29, 2013 - 2:14pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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TaylorMade Golf CEO Mark King
TaylorMade CEO Mark King believes that actions like the proposed anchoring ban will hurt golf, and that golf's governing bodies run the risk of becoming irrelevant if they continue to pursue them.

We're about two months into the three-month comment period that the USGA and R&A instituted after they announced their proposed rule to ban the anchoring of long putters.

Mark King, the CEO of TaylorMade, has a comment. And, wow, what a comment it is.

In short, King told The Telegraph newspaper in England that the anchoring ban is nonsensical, urged the tours to break away from the USGA and even predicted that the USGA will become a non-factor within a decade.

"The anchoring ban makes no sense to me at all," said King, whose company owns TaylorMade, adidas Golf, Ashworth apparel, Adams Golf and puttermaker Yes! Golf. "If I were running the PGA of America, I would write my own set of rules. I'd do it with the PGA Tour. The industry needs to come together without the USGA. Leave them out."

PGA of America President Ted Bishop issued a statement expressing his concern with the proposed ban immediately after it was announced. The European Tour has indicated it will go along with the ban when it goes into effect in 2016, but the PGA Tour hasn't yet formally established its position.

It would be a drastic move for the PGA Tour to flout the USGA and R&A, which establish the Rules of Golf worldwide, Telegraph columnist James Corrigan wrote. But, he noted, King feels it could happen because such prominent players as Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els and Webb Simpson have expressed strong opposition to the ban.

"I'm still not convinced the PGA Tour is going to completely embrace the long putter rule," said King. "Here's a prediction: The USGA within 10 years will be a nonentity. They will be a non-factor in golf because they are choosing to be on the outside and no one is signing up for what they represent. The industry is going to move away from them and pass them. They're obsolete. I hate to say that but that's their behavior."

Bifurcation – having one set of rules for professional players and another for amateurs – is not only inevitable, King told the newspaper, it's coming fast. "If [PGA Tour Commissioner] Tim Finchem says he's going to use all the USGA rules except the long putter rule, there you go. You have two sets of rules."

Regardless of whether the ban is instituted or not, King says TaylorMade will continue to make long putters. And if the USGA ever acts to restrict ball flight, as has been rumored, the company will keep making hot balls. There's no reason to doubt him, either -- TaylorMade has enjoyed record-setting sales in each of the past two years, and is by far the dominant company in the golf equipment space these days.

"The whole world, not just golf, the whole world is about innovation and consumers only want what's new and exciting," he said. "They don't want last year, they want new, innovative cool stuff and if we're going to stop that or limit that, we're going to kill the industry not just equipment but the playing of the game.

"So if the USGA doesn't jump on board and lead this new way of golf, they're just going to be obsolete," he summarized. "And if Finchem goes ahead and leaves the long putter in, it's just the start. The USGA is going over the edge."

King is the first big-clubmaker CEO to come out so strongly against the anchor rule, and others might not follow. However, having the largest equipment company come out so strongly against them has got to at least furrow some brows at the USGA and R&A, and King's vocal opposition might encourage other opponents to speak out as well. It'll be very interesting to see what happens from here.

January 29, 2013 - 12:37pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Darren Clarke
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Fan-favorite Darren Clarke was recently in a minor car accident.

An unbylined, Associated Press report out of Dubai, says that 2011 Open Champion Darren Clarke was recently in a, "minor car accident." By the sounds of it, the man long thought to be a favorite for the 2014 European Ryder Cup Captaincy until he pulled his name out of consideration and Irishman Paul McGinely got the nod, seems to be OK.

Here's the AP report:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The manager of Darren Clarke says the 2011 British Open champion will play as scheduled in India next week, despite being injured in a minor car accident.

Andrew Chandler says Clarke suffered a stiff neck and "just needed to rest this week." Clarke was a passenger in the car involved in the accident last week. Chandler didn't provide other details.

Clarke will be one of 24 players taking part in next week's inaugural Pearl Golf Premier League. The event, inspired by cricket's Indian Premier League, features eight franchises that have bought the players at an auction. The teams take part in a 14-hole competition rather than the traditional 18 at the Aamby Valley golf course from Feb. 7-10.

January 28, 2013 - 3:11pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Chris Wood
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Chris Wood hit a Mizuno MP-69 6-iron 205 yards to within six feet of the final hole of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters en route to an eagle and a one-shot victory, his first triumph on the European Tour.

Golf's biggest equipment makers dominated the news last week at the PGA Merchandise Show down in Orlando, but Mizuno held its ground with the biggest of the big boys thanks to three noteworthy developments:

--Last Sunday, Charles Howell III finished second in the Humana Challenge.
--On Wednesday, Mizuno announced that it had renewed its agreement with world No. 3 Luke Donald.
--On Friday came the news that the company had re-upped its deal with reigning LPGA Tour Player of the Year Stacy Lewis.
--And on Saturday, Mizuno staff ambassador Chris Wood bagged his first European Tour victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

Donald doesn't play an entire bag of Mizuno clubs, but he does use the company’s irons and wedges, and those clubs are the backbone of his steady short game. In fact, he provided feedback throughout the development of Mizuno's new MP-64 irons and MP-T4 wedges, to the point that Mizuno describes those clubs as being designed hand-in-hand with him.

Donald even visited the the plant in Hiroshima, Japan, where the clubs are forged, last November, and spent a little time with the man who grinds his clubs. While he was in Japan last fall, he won the Dunlop Phoenix, one of the biggest tournaments on the Japan Tour, and used those MP-64 irons and MP-T4 wedges in that victory.

Donald signed on with Mizuno back in 2003, and has earned 13 professional wins with that gear. He also played those Mizuno clubs during his red-hot 2011 and 2012 seasons, in which he held the world No. 1 position for a total of 56 weeks and topped the money lists on both the PGA Tour and European Tour in 2011.

"We've refined my Mizuno equipment in the last couple of seasons and I'm really happy with what I have in the bag right now, so it gives me great pleasure to extend this relationship," Donald said. "Mizuno is the most precise, incredible clubmaker out there, and I'm honored to represent this quality brand."

Donald's renewal never seemed to be seriously in doubt, but there was considerable speculation that Lewis might sign elsewhere. She began playing Mizuno gear in college, and last year led the LPGA Tour with four victories as she rose to No. 3 in the women's world rankings. She notched 16 top-10 finishes, more than any player on the 2012 LPGA Tour, and led the tour in birdies, eagles and rounds in the 60s.

"Since my freshman year at Arkansas, Mizuno has been my equipment manufacturer of choice," said Lewis. "Mizuno has helped me reach many of my goals thus far, and I'm looking forward to building on last year's momentum for another successful season."

Lewis hasn't unveiled her club set for 2013, but she ended 2012 with this configuration:

Driver: Mizuno JPX-800 (9 degrees of loft)
3-Wood: Mizuno MP (15 degrees)
17-Degree Hybrid: Mizuno MP CLK
4-9 Irons: Mizuno JPX-800 Pro
48-Degree Wedge: Mizuno JPX-800 Pro
52-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP T-11
56-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP T-11
60-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP T-11
Putter: TaylorMade Ghost TM-110 Tour
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Wood jumped into the spotlight by tying for fifth as an amateur in the 2008 British Open and then coming in third in the 2009 British Open, and earned his spot on the European Tour at Q-School a few months later. He had struggled to win as a professional, though, before breaking through with a triumph in the Thailand Open last fall.

His victory in Qatar on Saturday was as dramatic as they come – he led after three rounds, then fell behind Sergio Garcia and George Coetzee before eagling the final hole to win by a shot. After a big drive on the par-5 18th hole, Wood hit a 6-iron 205 yards to within six feet of the hole, and drained the putt for the win. His set includes:

Driver: Mizuno MP-650 (8.5 degrees, Royal Precision Project X Black 7.0 shaft)
3-Wood: Ping G20 (15 degrees)
3-4 Irons: Mizuno MP-64 (Royal Precision Rifle 7.0 shafts)
5-9 Irons: Mizuno MP-69 (Royal Precision Rifle 7.0 shafts)
48-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP-69 (Royal Precision Rifle 7.0 shaft)
52-Degree Wedge: MP-T4
56-Degree Wedge: MP-T4
60-Degree Wedge: MP-T4
Putter: Yes! Tracy Tour
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Other prominent players who use Mizuno gear include Jonathan Byrd, Marcel Siem, Mayu Hattori and Jiyai Shin.

And finally, if Tiger Woods closes out a win at the Farmers Insurance Open this afternoon as we all expect him to, the winners of the two big events worldwide this week will be Wood and Woods. That, obviously, has never happened before.

 

January 28, 2013 - 10:32am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Tiger Woods
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The question every golf observer wants the answer to: What will the 2013 season be like for Tiger Woods?

What kind of season is 2013 going to be for Tiger Woods?

That's always the question golf observers pose, isn't it? Well, he began the season two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi and missed the cut. Today, he brings a healthy six-shot lead with just 11 holes left to play in the weather-interrupted Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines -- a place where he's been more dominant than anyone else in the game's history.

Sure, it isn't over yet, but based on his history at Torrey, we don't think Tiger will be walking away later this afternoon without Tour victory No. 75.

This, however, is just one tournament. And no doubt, winning in his 2013 season debut on the PGA Tour is exactly the way Tiger wanted to set the tone for what's to come.

But, there will be several factors Tiger will face this year that will determine the kind of success he can achieve. Many he can control and many he cannot.

BleacherReport.com's Mike Dudurich examines a number of scenarios Tiger could find himself in this season and tells us whether these scenarios will play out (fact), or not (fiction):

Tiger Woods is one of the most complex athletes in sports.

On the course, off the course, he does things that few others can do or have even dreamed of doing.

And because he is who he is, speculation, rumor and innuendo are always associated with him.

So why wouldn't it be fun to put together a list playing a little fact or fiction with all things Tiger for 2013?

Could another injury doom Tiger? Dudurich thinks so:

He seems to have rounded back into shape and appears to be healthier than he's been in several years.

His new swing, while still in its early stages, will take less of a toll on his 37-year-old body.

But because he's already had problems with his Achilles tendon and a bulging disc in his neck, he might be susceptible to problems in those areas again.

Conclusion: Fact

To read the full piece, click here.

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

January 28, 2013 - 10:14am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Congressional Country Club
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Congressional Country Club, where Tiger Woods won the 2012 AT&T National, is one of the most difficult courses players will face all year.

Not all PGA Tour golf courses are created equally. Aside from the contrast in terrain, types of grass and natural surroundings, the scores players shoot at particular courses highlights the divide between those where we expect to see a birdie-fest and those where par can be a man's best friend.

For example, Russell Henley, a Tour rookie, won in his very first start at the Sony Open in Hawaii with a remarkable 72-hole score of 24 under at Waialae Country Club. While beautiful, no doubt, Waialae is flat and lends itself to low scores.

A place like Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., which plays host to AT&T National, meanwhile, was won by Tiger Woods a year ago and his winning total of 8 under.

Mike Dudurich of BleacherReport.com recently took a look at the 10 most difficult courses on the 2013 PGA Tour schedule.

Dudurich opened the piece with this:

Numbers normally don't lie in golf. It's easy to figure out who's playing well and who isn't by looking at the statistics.

The same thing goes for courses. Players can name this course or that one as the most difficult they've ever played, but the numbers make it crystal clear as to which courses are the most difficult.

And they also make great indicators as to how courses will play in the future.

Those numbers played a definite role in this list of the 10 most difficult courses on the 2013 PGA Tour.

Here's what Dudurich wrote about Congressional:

There are good reasons for Congressional Country Club being ranked as the third-toughest course on the PGA Tour in 2012. Eighteen reasons, to be exact.

The Blue Course -- host of the AT&T -- is a collection of great and very difficult holes, including as good a group of par 4's as there is on the PGA Tour.

At 7,569 yards, tour pros averaged 73.046 strokes per round in 2012, 2.046 above par.

Only 12 eagles were recorded at Congressional last year, a very low number for the tour’s talented stars. The second, fourth and 11th holes were among the Top 25 toughest holes a year ago.

To read all of Dudurich's piece, click here.

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