Golf Buzz

August 19, 2013 - 5:02pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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TaylorMade SLDR driver
Courtesy of TaylorMade
The weight cap sits right below

For any golfer using an adjustable driver, an incident over the weekend is well worth a good look.

Charles Howell III was disqualified from the Wyndham Championship before the start of the third round on Saturday for using a non-conforming driver. But the reason why the driver was declared non-conforming is a new one.

Howell began the week using a new SLDR driver from TaylorMade. Golfers can adjust the SLDR by moving a small weight along a track that runs from the heel to the toe along the sole. Next to that track is a small weight port covered by a cap. The cap can be removed if the golfer wants to switch in a lighter or heavier weight.

While Howell was warming up on the range before the second round on Friday, that cap somehow came off. Howell checked with company officials, who told him that wouldn't affect the club's performance, so he used the driver minus the cap and finished the round tied for 10th place.

On Saturday, however, rules officials told Howell that the missing cap made the driver non-conforming – and because he had used it on Friday, he was disqualified. 

''Prior to teeing off, I spoke to the guys at TaylorMade about the toe-cap coming off to be sure that it wouldn't impact the performance of the club. I was assured it would not affect the club's performance,'' Howell said. ''The idea that the club would no longer be conforming, because of the missing toe-cap, never entered my mind.''

Under the rules, if the cap had come off during the round, Howell could have finished the round without penalty and then fixed the club before his next round. But because it happened before the round, he was out.

Discussions among some of my golf buddies raised two specific questions about the ruling:

1. Was the driver ruled non-conforming because officials thought the missing cap might provide a bit of an aerodynamic advantage?

2. Or was the driver ruled non-conforming because it was approved with the cap in place, but not without the cap? 

The answer, basically, is both.

"TaylorMade has been making drivers with movable parts since 2004," said TaylorMade Public Relations Manager Dave Cordero. "What happened in the case of Charles Howell III's driver is very rare and we will make the necessary adjustments to ensure this does not happen again."

Adjustable drivers have been around for the better part of a decade now, and are more popular than ever. This is the first time I'm aware that this particular issue has arisen, but it is a lesson for every golfer using a club with any kind of movable part. This ruling is more than enough reason to check your gear before every round and make sure everything is just as it should be.

Approximately a dozen TaylorMade staff players have been using SLDR drivers in recent weeks, and Howell plans to use his this week at The Barclays as he begins the PGA Tour FedExCup playoffs.

"I put this driver in play two weeks ago and it is the best performing driver I've played," he said. "This driver will be back in play [this] week."


August 18, 2013 - 2:45pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky
Getty Images
Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky fit right in with the locals at the BMW International Open in June.

Dustin Johnson has seven PGA Tour wins so far. And now, he's won the heart of Paulina Gretzky.

Johnson apparently popped the question Saturday night. Earlier today, he took to Twitter to report the happy news.

"She said yes!!!," he tweeted, including a photo of a large diamond ring on Gretzky's finger. She retweeted it, along with several congratulatory messages from friends and family. 

Johnson and Gretzky – the daughter of hockey great Wayne Gretzky – were first were spotted together at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, which Johnson won. Wayne Gretzky and his wife, Janet, joined their daughter the following week in Honolulu at the Sony Open, and the Great One was Johnson's celebrity partner at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. 

Johnson himself confirmed the existence of the relationship back in mid-January when he tweeted out a photo showing the new couple cuddling up out in California. Since then, the two of them have posted a series of tweets and photos on social media.

No word yet on a wedding date – or whether they'll live-tweet the ceremony.


August 17, 2013 - 8:42pm
Posted by:
John Kim's picture
Unwritten Rules of Golf
Understanding the culture and etiquette of golf can make the game even more enjoyable.
One of the greatest challenges to more people playing golf is the intimidation of learning the rules. No, I'm not talking about the ample rulebook provided by the USGA, because quite honestly, you probably break a number of them everytime you go out. No, it's the rules that we all are expected to play by, and that are not really found anywhere - the Unwritten Rules of Golf. 

When people talk about the honor, etiquette and life lessons of golf - they're not talking about a proper drop from a hazard or whether you dropped your marker on your ball -- they are talking about a culture of behavior that has been learned and passed down through generations of play. A breach of these norms can cause anything from disapproving glares to frosty tension - no wonder they can cause so much angst among the new players. But how do you learn them if they are, in fact, unwritten rules?!

Well, here's the end of those excuses. Let's start a list of "The Unwritten Rules of Golf" - and make them written.  I'll start with a round of 18 for now and we can add to these as you all name more. Then share the list - with new golfers, with old golfers who need a refresher (hey, we all know those) and those who've just never bothered to learn. Read 'em, learn 'em, live 'em. 
1.) Silence please: Golf is a social game. It's one of the best things about it. But golf is also a game of concentration. Don't talk to a player (or anyone else  - including into a mobile phone) when someone else is hitting. Your voice is both a distraction as they swing - and an excuse if they hit a bad shot. You don't need to provide either of those. 

2.) Leave the course like you found it (or better): Fill your divots, fix your ball marks, rake your bunker.  When your ball lands in an unfilled divot in the fairway or a footprint in a bunker, making your shot much tougher than it would have been, you'll understand why. On the green, fix your ballmark and perhaps one more. 

3.) Watch your shadow: Don't allow it to get in someone else's putting line or have it moving in the visual field as another player is hitting. 

4.) Watch your positioning: Do not stand too close or in the wrong area to another player. Directly behind a player's hitting/putting line can be a distraction. Really, anywhere that can encroach in a player's visual field as they swing. When on the green, if you want to "learn" from another player's putt, move to the correct line behind them AFTER they've hit the putt.   

5.) Sportsmanship trumps gamesmanship: You think you're gaining an advantage with the 'early walk' or the dropping of the bag or the 'cough' when they are putting? No, probably not. But you're definitely gaining a reputation as someone no one wants to tee it up with. 

6.) Tend the pin: It's never a bad thing to ask someone with a lengthy putt if they want you to 'tend the pin.'  That is, keep the flag in the hole until the putt has been struck and then remove it before the putt gets to the hole area. Also, if someone is just off the green, ask if they'd like to keep the pin in or out. 

7.) Safety first: Know when to yell "Fore!"  "Fore" is a warning that a wayward shot is coming. If you hit a shot that is headed towards another golfer, a course worker, any person - let them know a shot is coming their way. Seriously.

8) Tip well: The caddies, the beverage cart, the bag boys, etc. They aren't on the course for fun today, this is their job. You expect them to act in a professional manner, you should treat them professionally as they do so. 

9.) Return lost clubs: Players will inevitably leave clubs behind. Don't look at this as an opportunity to score a new wedge. You'll leave yours behind as well one day. This shouldn't even have to be said. But alas, it does.

10.) Keep up with the group in front. Pace of play is all the rage right now. For good reason. I'm not talking about speed golf. Just don't fall too far behind the group in front of you and you'll be just fine.

11.) Let faster groups play through: They'll be glad you did it, so will you. It's no fun for them to watch you plumb bob for a 7. It's no fun for you to know they are staring you down. Also, when you're playing through, be fast.  Don't hunt for errant shots too long. Don't measure up every putt.

12.) Don't laugh when someone misses a short putt: It's not funny to them. It won't be funny to you when you do it. And you will. (This actually goes for any bad shot)

13.) Respect the game: Have fun, but don't be obnoxious. Screaming/yelling so that someone three fairways over can hear you...not cool. Cussing is bad - doing it loudly is dumb. Shake hands with each playing partner/opponent after the round. Take your hat off when you do it. Don't wear your hat indoors. And throwing your club/putter in disgust is never ever appropriate.

14.) Putt 'em out: Unless your partner/opponent specifically tells you that your putt is "good" - don't assume it is and pick it up. We've all seen someone miss a three-footer and just because they are disgusted, pick the ball up or knock it away. The hole is not over until your ball is in the cup. 

15) Understand cart etiquette: Park in an area where you're not walking backwards after the hole to get back to the cart. Don't park where you're in the way of another player or another group. Don't start the cart during another player's swing. Don't start the cart as someone is starting to take a drink. Especially if they're wearing white. 

16.) Remember when you were a beginner: Don't be a jerk to those who aren't as skilled, or educated in golf norms. Rather than criticize, or get upset, offer to teach. 

17.) Don't sandbag: If you're in a competition, whether an organized tournament or a friendly wager - don't inflate your handicap hoping to win a few bucks or an acryllic plaque. The worst thing you can do in golf is cheat. It's the unforgivable sin. And cheating. 

18.) Winner buys drinks after the round. If you won the big money (not condoning (or condemning friendly wagers)) - the least you can do is buy the group a round. 

You can add to these, debate them or tell the author he did a lousy job by contacting John Kim on Twitter at @johnkim
August 16, 2013 - 2:04pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Michael Hoey
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Michael Hoey uses a driver with only 8.5 degrees of loft, which is even less loft than the European Tour average.

The 2013 professional golf season has rounded the curve and is heading down the final stretch. As we await the FedExCup playoffs on the PGA Tour and, a little later, the final events of the Race to Dubai on the European circuit, here are some interesting stats from the first 20 events on the European Tour. 

I haven't seen corresponding stats from the PGA Tour, but I would suspect they're fairly similar. These stats, by the way, come from SMS, the company that surveys equipment usage on the European Tour:

--The average loft of drivers is 9.0 degrees
--The average loft of fairway woods is 15.0 degrees
--The average loft of hybrids is 18.4 degrees

That 9-degree loft for drivers just shows that most professionals generate much more clubhead speed than most of the rest of us. 

--The average number of fairway woods in each bag was 1.18
--The average number of hybrids and/or utility irons in each bag was 1.06

No surprises here. Most professionals generally carry a driver, a 3-wood and a hybrid. 

--0.07% of players used a 2-iron
--52.2% of players used a 3-iron

The lack of 2-irons isn't shocking, but maybe the fact that only half the players use a 3-iron on a given day is a little eyebrow-raising. It just confirms that the pros also have eschewed long irons in favor of hybrids, and most professionals carry three or four wedges.

--The average loft of a sand wedge is 53.6 degrees
--31.5% of sand wedges are 52 degrees
--36.7% of sand wedges are 54 degrees

--The average loft of a lob wedge is 59.2 degrees
--38.2% of loft wedges are 58 degrees
--55.6% of lob wedges are 60 degrees

--A 64-degree wedge has been used 16 times

-- 8.6% of players used a long/belly putter

The usage of long and belly putters was said to be as high as 20 percent at the height of the craze a year or so ago, but clearly many of the professionals who tried long putters have reverted to standard-length models – likely in large part because of the forthcoming ban on the anchor putting stroke. One stat I’d love to see going forward is how many players have and will move to counter-weighted putters, which to me provide much of the same feel as long putters do while also allowing golfers to swing them normally.

Players have used:
--45 different models of golf ball from 11 different brands
--88 different models of drivers from 18 different brands
--360 different models of putters from 30 different brands

Two quick thoughts. One is that, even with all the different types of golf balls reported, a good 70 or 80 percent of the players use Titleist ProV1 or Pro V1x balls. So obviously even the balls in third, fourth or fifth place in the count are only being used by a handful of players.

Second, that putter stat illustrates what we all know – even the game's elite players switch putters in and out all the time. This reminds me of a stat I saw about a year ago, which showed that 35 players at the European Tour's 2012 Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland used a different putter than they did in their previous start. No club in the bag is as personal, and as fickle, as the flatstick.


August 15, 2013 - 10:30pm
Posted by:
John Kim's picture
Jack Nicklaus and sons
Jack Nicklaus Instagram
Jack Nicklaus sent out an old family photo in taking part in Instagram's Throwback Thursdays
One of the most popular social media platforms today is Instagram - and one of the more popular uses of the photo sharing site is "Throwback Thursdays", often hashtagged as #TBT. 
The tag is used to denote older photos that were taken in years past, long before social media was available to share some of the more compelling images of each user. It has become both popular to share old photos and of course, to peek in on what others are sharing. 
Even golf legend Jack Nicklaus is taking part - and he's doing it by sending out not older photos of his numerous golf wins...but rather, more personal photos including the one above where he and his sons are enjoying a little father-sons time together learning the game. It's great to see some of golf's icons embracing new technologies and social platforms. 
Nicklaus recently partnered with the PGA of America to ask fans to "Pick the Hole Location" for the Sunday round of the PGA Championship. It was a huge success - in no small part to Nicklaus sending out a YouTube video of him picking the hole location he would prefer. You can see more of Nicklaus' photos (old and new) at his Instagram account.

You can follow John Kim on Twitter at @johnkim
August 14, 2013 - 3:02pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Jason Dufner
Amanda Dufner via Instagram
Both Jason Dufner and the Wanamaker Trophy needed some shut-eye after the PGA Championship.

It's a pretty safe bet to say that Jason Dufner has had his photo taken more times in the last few days than at any other point in his life.

It's also safe to say that my favorite one is this one posted above. It was taken the morning after he won the PGA Championship by his now mega-famous wife Amanda. She posted it on her Instragram account with the caption, ''I've been replaced.''

Amanda, I don't think you've got anything to worry about. However, I do see that the Dufners have a brand-new family member – a pup named Prince Louie. Dare we ask if he has any connection to Jason's fellow major winner Louis ''King Louis'' Oosthuizen? Probably not.

The Dufners spent Tuesday making the media rounds in New York, and you can see our photo gallery of their whirlwind trip here.

Also, we have put together a comprehensive recap of Dufner's victory at the PGA Championship in our brand-new "Weekly Golf Buzz" video show. And, of course, you can relive our complete coverage of the PGA Championship on the official site.

One final note on Dufner's victory that is as cool as anything I heard all last week. Dufner apparently felt like he was going to have a good week at Oak Hill, so he and Amanda collected a few acorns to take back to the plot of land in Alabama where they're building a new house. They were going to plant them in hopes that some Oak Hill oak trees would take root.

After he won, though, Dufner arranged with Oak Hill to have a sapling from the club transported down to his property. 

''So at least that one will take root,'' Dufner said. ''I will have some trees out there, and it will be a neat experience – first major championship at Oak Hill and hopefully, have some of their oak trees out there on the property.''