Golf Buzz

June 11, 2014 - 8:00am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rory McIlroy
USA Today Images
Rory McIlroy is already a two-time major champion. Will he pick up his second U.S. Open win this week at Pinehurst No. 2?

There's no other golf tournament in the world where mistakes are penalized as badly as they are in a U.S. Open.

In a U.S. Open, par is a player's friend and you don't always mind hanging out with bogey. Most importantly, one needs to avoid the big mistakes. Take your medicine, as they say, get the ball back in play and get out of there with as little damage to your scorecard as possible.

This week's test will be one of the toughest, with the best players in the world descending on historic Pinehurst No. 2. Unlike most U.S. Opens, there will be virtually no rough to speak of this week. However, that won't make this Donald Ross design (revamped recently by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore) any easier to navigate.

U.S. OPEN: What a win would mean for Phil Mickelson | Tee times | Full coverage

This is the third time a U.S. Open will be contested at Pinehurst No. 2. Here are five players you'll want to look out for.

5. Webb Simpson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Reason to watch: Hard to believe, but this will mark just the 10th start in a major championship for Simpson. His previous nine have yielded one top-10 finish -- that famously came in the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco. OK, so we know he has the game to handle U.S. Open conditions. I also like this about Simpson: he's coming off a strong showing on Sunday (T3 in Memphis) and this championship is being played in his home state of North Carolina. He's confident and motivated.

4. Adam Scott
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial
Reason to watch: Here's a little fun fact about the world's No. 1-ranked player that you may not know and he'd probably prefer to not be reminded about -- he's never once finished inside the top 10 at a U.S. Open. In fact, it's the only major championship in which he hasn't finished in the top 3 at some point. Why do I like him this week then? For starters, some have compared Pinehurst No. 2 to Australia's Royal Melbourne, one of Scott's favorite places in the world. Also, this is his first major since becoming world No. 1. We saw what he did at Colonial in his first start as world No. 1. Scott doesn't make many big mistakes and that will serve him well at Pinehurst.

3. Sergio Garcia
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Third at the Shell Houston Open and the Players Championship
Reason to watch: Garcia tied for third at Pinehurst in the 2005 U.S. Open. He's the only player in this week's field to boast a top-10 finish the last time the national championship was held at Pinehurst No. 2. It's pretty well documented that Garcia has yet to capture that elusive major. As arguably the best driver in the game and a fantastic ball-striker, there's no reason to think Garcia can't finally pick up major win No. 1 this week... unless his putter acts up. The way he's played on the PGA Tour this season, though -- five top 10s in eight starts -- you'd have to think he's as ready for a major win as ever before. His game and his mind are in a nice spot.

2. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Third at the Shell Houston Open and the Players Championship
Reason to watch: Three weeks ago, McIlroy may not have made this list. He's got a lot going on off the course. However, he's used the golf course as his refuge from that off-the-course stuff and just a few weeks ago he was able to capture the European Tour's biggest event in the BMW PGA Championship. He's got two majors under his belt, including the 2011 U.S. Open. In each of his nine PGA Tour starts this season, McIlroy has finished inside the top 25. He has yet to win on the PGA Tour in 2014. But, I really like where his game is at heading to Pinehurst and I know he's hungry for another major win.

1. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T11 at the Wells Fargo Championship and the FedEx St. Jude Classic
Reason to watch: In the pantheon of all-time great sports stories, a Phil Mickelson victory at Pinehurst No. 2 this week would have to rank right up there. No player in the history of the game has finished runner up in the U.S. Open more often than Mickelson (six times). The first of those six came at Pinehurst 15 years ago when he was edged by Payne Stewart. If Mickelson were to win this week, he finally gets past all those prior missteps and -- the cherry on top -- he'd complete the career grand slam. Oddly -- by his high standards -- this has been far from a great season so far for Mickelson. However, he is the type of player who can snap out of a slump at any time. While every major win is nice, I've got to believe there's no major venue Mickelson would like to win at more than this U.S. Open at Pinehurst. 

June 10, 2014 - 2:12pm
mark.aumann's picture
Justin Leonard answers a volunteer's cellphone Monday while getting set to tee off.

Justin Leonard was preparing to tee off Monday for a practice round at Pinehurst No. 2 when a volunteer's cellphone rang. Instead of getting angry, Leonard took the call himself.

Check out the video here:

 

 

 

It's not known what Justin was explaining to the caller, but I'm guessing it was something along the lines of, "Hi, you've reached Justin Leonard. I can't come to the phone right now because I'm about to hit a tee shot at the U.S. Open. If you'll leave a name and number at the beep, I'll get back to you."

It's bad enough that the poor, embarrassed volunteer's job was holding up a "Quiet, Please" sign to inform the rest of the fans to keep still. But Leonard definitely gets credit for making light of what could have been a difficult situation.

June 10, 2014 - 10:17am
Posted by:
PGA.com staff
dpurdum's picture
Pinehurst No. 2
USA Today Images
The staff at Pinehurst is ready to put on the first back-to-back men's and women's U.S. Open Championships.

PGA.com spoke with Eric Alpenfels, Director of Golf Instruction at Pinehurst, leading up to this week’s U.S. Open Championship. Here is what the PGA Professional had to say.

PGA.com: The late Payne Stewart had a strong relationship with Pinehurst and the staff even before winning the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. What stands out in your memory from Stewart’s win?

Alpenfels: There were so many people up around the 18th hole (during the final round) that it was just impossible to break through. My office was the only place where you could actually see the final couple of holes. So we were up there with my wife and a few people, including Payne’s instructor, Dr. Richard Coop.

Coop told us that Payne had played out the final hole in his head several times. If he missed the fairway to the right, he was going to wedge it out short of the green, hit the shot up onto the green and then make the putt to win the tournament. Right before Stewart stood over the (winning) putt, Coop got up and said, ‘I’ll see you later. I’m going to go greet him coming off the 18th green.’ He knew he was going to make it. He just walked out the door.

MORE: Remembering Payne Stewart 14 years after his tragic death

PGA.com: Where will you be this Sunday during the final round?

Alpenfels: I will be on the driving range in the morning and then probably sitting in my office watching how the final holes play out, simply to avoid all the chaos that will be going on around the 18th green.

PGA.com: What hole do you believe will play the toughest this week?

Alpenfels: I think No. 5 playing as a par 5 is going to be very, very interesting. The fifth hole is traditionally a long par 4, slight dogleg left with a lot of undulation in the fairway. Most of the time on your second shot into this par 4, the ball is slightly above your feet and there’s some trouble to the left. It’s pretty dangerous in the sense that, if you go too far left of the middle green, you can roll it off of the green and into a pot bunker. But it’s playing as a par 5 this time, so it’ll be interesting to see if some of the players try to reach the green in two. You could be left with some really messy and difficult short-game shots, if they miss the green left. That may not play the toughest, but it may be the most interesting hole this week.

I think the par 3’s could play extremely difficult. I think the sixth hole is a really tough par 3 that’s going to play maybe 218 yards. If you land it short of the green, it won’t necessarily skip up. If you hit it to the right, there’s a bunker and a waste area. Give me five more minutes, and I’ll go through them all.

PGA.com: Sounds like a typically difficult U.S. Open setup. What’s your pick for a winning score?

Alpenfels: If somebody comes in at 2-under par, that’ll be really spectacular golf. By design, it’s going to play hard and fast.

PGA.com: What are you and your team’s responsibilities during the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens the next two weeks?

Alpenfels: We have two responsibilities. Our instructors are teaching lots of individual lessons through clinics to accommodate the corporate groups that are in-house for the two weeks. In addition, some of our team is going to be managing the practice facility, the full-swing, the short game areas. For us, it’s a very small role, simply because we have so many volunteers helping out.

Bob Farren, director of grounds for all the courses, quite frankly has done a remarkable job. They’re prepared for the men’s tournament and have all the staff in place to make it go off without a hitch. Then, they’ll turn it around the next week and have it in great condition for the women just like it is for the men.

 

June 10, 2014 - 9:08am
Posted by:
PGA.com staff
dpurdum's picture
PGA Professional Greg Stephens
Photo by Randi Stephens
One of many scenic pictures that PGA Professional Greg Stephens has posted on social media.

PGA.com has been publishing Instagram photos of golf courses for a few months and it's proven to be a crowd pleaser. One of our first photographers to share multiple (and creative) images was Greg Stephens, PGA Director of Golf at Victory Ranch Club near Salt Lake City. We talked with him a little bit about his use of social media to promote the game and his golf course.

PGA.com: What equipment do you use to take your photos?

Stephens: It’s all my iPhone 5, and, before the 5 came out, it was the 4. I think I have maybe one or two pictures out of all of them that were done with my Casio high speed, if I was really trying to capture a certain position. But I haven’t taken that out of the bag in the last two golf seasons. Everything the last two years has been strictly iPhone.

I’ve seen a lot of posts (on Instagram) from GoPro. I’ve used it plenty when mountain biking and snowboarding. I’ve never really incorporated it into golf. I’m thinking about dabbling with it a little in golf, because I’ve seen a lot of cool angles and a lot of cool shots from the wide fisheye lens. But right now it’s just the iPhone.

MORE: Check out Carly Booth's amazing workout on her Instagram

 

PGA.com: Your have more than 1,300 followers on your Instagram account, @Instgregs. How has social media benefitted your course?

Stephens: We always have people asking, ‘Where is that golf course?’ and ‘What are the green fees?’ We run into a little trouble, because we’re a high-end private facility. But if this was a public or a resort facility, you would be able to drum up a substantial amount business and increase your rounds through social media. It’s amazing how much more I could get, based on my Instagram.

 

 

PGA.com: What has been the key to your social media success?

Stephens: In my opinion, it comes from the hashtags. Some people think it’s dumb or don’t like seeing photos with tons of hashtags on them. But, in my opinion, that’s how you get your stuff seen. For me, there’s certain hashtags that I’ll always use with a golf photo, whether it’s ‘#golf’ or ‘#golflife,’ ‘#Nike’ or ‘#Nikegolf.’ The interest I’ve gotten I would have to point directly at hashtags, because a lot of time it’s people that I don’t know. It’s maybe people that didn’t follow me at first, but found your stuff through your hashtag and started looking through your page. It’s funny -- I’ve got people from the East Coast that have said playing Victory Ranch is now on their bucket list of golf courses to play. That’s pretty funny, because it comes from me just putting up a picture on Instagram.”

 

PGA.com: Judging by some of your photos, you’re kind of a sneaker head. How many pairs of golf shoes do you have and what is your most unique pair?

Stephens: I’m embarrassed to tell you how many golf shoes that I have. Honestly, a couple hundred pair. The Eric Koston golf shoe (is most unique). Along with being big into snowboarding in the winter time, I’m big into skateboarding. I don’t do it so much anymore, but I do a little bit. I grew up in New York and got my first skateboard literally before I was 2 years old. I started out sitting on my butt, scooting around. I pretty much lived on top of a skateboard until I was old enough to drive. Eric Koston is a skateboarding legend and he is a Nike skateboarding athlete and a scratch golfer. Because he’s so into golf, they made a couple of pairs of shoes last year. It’s a pair of really unique golf shoes, solid red with a black swoosh. The upper (part of it) looks just like his skateboarding pro model shoe, but it’s got a full-on golf sole on the bottom. So it’s a full-on skateboarding shoe converted into a golf shoe.

 

 

 

 

Carly Booth
Carly Booth via Instagram
Carly Booth proves she is as accomplished in the gym as she is on the golf course.

The other day, I shared an Instagram video from Scottish golfer Carly Booth, in which she hit an amazing flop shot over the head of a man standing only a few feet in front of her. 

So, for fun, I checked her Instagram account again today – and found that she'd posted a new video that's even more impressive than that flop shot. By a long shot.

GOLF BUZZ: Carly Booth hits a flop shot that even Phil Mickelson would admire 

In this one, the two-time Ladies European Tour champion is finishing up a gym session with some upper body work. With the camera on, she concludes her workout with a show of strength and flexibility that I would expect to see only from an Olympic gymnast or maybe a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.

I can't even describe it without feeling like my arms are gonna rip out of their sockets. Just take a look.

Justin Rose, Retief Goosen
Ashworth Golf
Justin Rose and Retief Goosen have their respective U.S. Open victories commemorated by Ashworth Golf on second installment of the company's Majors Series golf shirts.

As a follow up to its popular commemorative Majors Series golf shirt for Fred Couples at the Masters in April, Ashworth Golf announced today its second installment of golf shirts for this week's U.S. Open, paying homage to 2013 champ Justin Rose and 2001 and 2004 champ Retief Goosen.

The second and third golf shirts in the Ashworth Major Series collection are dedicated to Rose's 2013 victory at Merion Golf Club and the 10-year anniversary of Goosen's victory at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

Incorporating elements specific to each player's major tournament win, Ashworth designers utilized premium fabrics and unique contrast threads throughout to ensure a piece distinctly representative of each player. Each shirt in the series is individually numbered inside of the placket, with the total quantity produced matching the winning player's total score.

RELATED: Ashworth unveils Encinitas, Kingston golf shoes

Rose's shirt, therefore, will be limited to 281 unites. It features his signature embroidered inside the back neck, white contrast piping on the chest and sleeve cuff, and has the historic date of his major championship stamped on the second placket button.

"I wore Ashworth when I won my first major championship at Merion and I'm proud to wear it on tour every week," said Rose. "I'm honored by this special piece commemorating my U.S. Open Championship and look forward to having it on as I defend my championship at Pinehurst this year."

Goosen's commemorative shirt is limited to 276 units, matching his winning score at the 2004 U.S. Open. Similar to Rose's golf shirt, Goosen's limited-edition piece has his embroidered signature in the back neck and contrast coloring on a rib-knit collar in addition to the date of his major championship victory on the second placket button.

"I genuinely love the style and feel of Ashworth Golf apparel," said Goosen. "To have a golf shirt designed to celebrate my major victory is an honor, and I'm proud to wear it on the tenth anniversary of my second U.S. Open Championship victory."

Both Rose and Goosen will wear these very shirts for Thursday's opening round.

Available in limited quantities, the Justin Rose and Retief Goosen Ashworth Majors Series golf shirts will be available exclusively at www.ashworthgolf.com for $100.