Golf Buzz

February 5, 2014 - 4:57pm
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John Holmes
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Dustin Johnson
Getty Images
Dustin Johnson already owns a pair of wins at Pebble Beach.
This week makes for arguably the most jarring transition between two events anywhere on the PGA Tour – from the Waste Management Phoenix Open's rowdy party in the desert to the spectacular scenery and spiritual serenity of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. There is one similarity between these two disparate PGA Tour stops, though. To succeed, you must embrace the concept.
 
At Phoenix, that means dealing with the festival-like atmosphere – and that gladiatorial arena known as the 16th hole. At Pebble, it means dealing with the celebrities and amateurs – who make the event so special but nonetheless can really slow the proceedings down – along with the often damp and chilly conditions. (In fact, the highs for the four days of play are predicted to be 57, 59, 60 and 60, with a good chance of rain every day but Friday.  
 
So given all this, who's worth keeping an eye on? Here are five:
 
5. Jimmy Walker
Best finish in 2013-14 seasons: Won 2013 Frys.com Open and 2014 Sony Open 
Reason to watch: Walker missed the cut at Torrey Pines, but has otherwise been red-hot since the beginning of the new wraparound season last fall. How hot? He already has two victories, and is atop both the money list and the FedExCup points chart. Both those titles came virtue of his putting, and mastering the tricky winter greens on the Monterey Peninsula is a big key to success.  
 
 
4. John Daly
Best finish in 2013-14 seasons: Tied for 32nd in the 2014 Sony Open in Hawaii.
Reason to watch: Those pants! Also, the blond bomber is showing signs of recapturing his long-lost form as he continues to recover from last summer's elbow surgery. His tie for 32nd at Sony last month was his best showing on the PGA Tour in more than a year, and he opened both the recent Qatar Masters and BMW Masters on the European Tour strongly before falling back. As always, Big John is capable of carding some big figures, and his recent record at Pebble is poor, but he's still a fan favorite and a strong showing could give him and his legions of loyalists a big boost.
 
 
3. Dustin Johnson
Best finish in 2013-14 seasons: Won the 2013 HSBC Champions and the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Johnson missed the cut at Pebble for the first time last year, but in his previous starts he won in both 2009 and 2010, tied for fifth in 2012, tied for seventh in 2008, and tied for 55th in 2011. DJ is always worth watching, just to see him bust those drives a country mile. But he and Pebble obviously get along, and his laid-back persona is perfect for this celebrity-filled shindig. Even better, his celebrity partner is his friend and future father-in-law Wayne Gretzky.
 
 
2. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2013-14 seasons: Won the 2013 British Open and the 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Reason to watch: In almost any tournament, who's more worth watching than Phil the Thrill? He's been his usual roller-coaster self so far in 2014, but owns a stellar track record at Pebble Beach, where he's won three times in the last decade. Mickelson has been mediocre, stats-wise, so far this season, but he's 20th in birdies, which only confirms his ability to conjure up something from nothing at almost any time.
 
1. Graeme McDowell 
Best finish in 2013-14 seasons: Won the 2013 RBC Heritage
Reason to watch: Surprisingly, this marks McDowell's return to Pebble Beach for the first time since he won the U.S. Open there in 2010. This is also his first start anywhere since early December. Expect some rust on the Northern Irishman – especially after his sluggish second half of 2013, his engagement and the opening of his restaurant in Orlando. Picking G-Mac to win seems a stretch, but it should be satisfying to see him soak up the Monterey Peninsula atmosphere in a much less pressurized situation than the last time.
 
 
February 5, 2014 - 10:27am
Michael.Benzie's picture
Peyton Manning
Dan van der Kooy
Peyton Manning talks golf at AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

We told you earlier this week about Peyton Manning's late-entry in to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and Tuesday, we were able to catch up with the NFL MVP to talk a little golf.

SEE: Tuesday photos from the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Manning sports an impressive 4.9 handicap index out of Castle Pines Golf Club outside of Denver and is a long-noted golf fanatic, having played in the AT&T before in 2009 and a famous pairing with Tiger Woods at the Quail Hollow Championship Pro-Am. This year, he'll play with PGA Tour player Scott Langley. As you may have heard, Manning is fresh off Denver's disaapointing 43-8 Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks. 

Here are some excerpts of his brief interview with PGA.com's Dan VanDerKooy.

  • "I didn't play much as a kid. I used to say I wish I played more as a kid, but probably wouldn’t have my current job if I played more as a kid. I played football, baseball, basketball -- as far as my priorities." Manning noted that the NFL schedule lends itself to golf in the offseason and that it's typical for him to play with teammates after offseason workouts.
  • "For me, it's a good getaway, that’s kind of why I’m here this weekend ...  kind of get away from your current job."
  • On his golf talent, again, Manning is a solid golfer but still felt "so far removed (for Tour players). I know what my day job is. Just try to bang it around and hopefully not hurt anybody this weekend"
  • On his dream foursome. It's not surprising that it's his father Archie and brothers Cooper and Eli. "That’s a pretty fun foursome. We’re together so rarely, the chance for us to get together is pretty special." Eli of course lives in New York and Cooper and his father are in New Orleans, Manning said.

Here's the video:

 

 

PGA.com's Dan VanDerKooy contributed to this report.

 

February 4, 2014 - 5:37pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Caleb Watson
Bubba Watson via YouTube
Caleb Watson might need a few swing tips from Dad, but his enthusiasm is undeniable.
Bubba Watson lost a heartbreaker on Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but he's no doubt overjoyed to see his young son Caleb taking to golf already.
 
Watson shared a couple of YouTube videos this week of Caleb playing his first hole and then ''working'' on his bunker game. The youngster might need a few swing tips from Dad, but his enthusiasm is undeniable. One question, though: When does Caleb get his own pink driver?
 
Watson and wife Angie adopted Caleb, who was a month old at the time, only about two weeks before Watson won the 2012 Masters, so Caleb is coming up on his second birthday pretty soon. Watson famously tried hard to balance his home and golf lives in the months after the adoption, and it's great to see father and son spending quality time together on the links.
 
Here are the videos:
 
 
 
February 4, 2014 - 3:38pm
Posted by:
John Kim
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Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning
Photo: Getty Images
Peyton Manning joins his friend Tiger Woods at the 2009 Quail Hollow Championship Pro-Am.

All eyes will be on PGA Tour player Scott Langley this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Or, I should say, on Scott Langely's group.

Why? Because also in that group will be five-time NFL MVP (including this past season) Peyton Manning.

The sure-fire Hall-of-Famer-to-be was a late entry into the field, understandable since he did have some commitments this past weekend. The Denver Broncos quarterback sports an impressive 4.9 handicap index out of Castle Pines Golf Club outside of Denver and is a long-noted golf fanatic, having played in the AT&T before in 2009 and a famous pairing with Tiger Woods at the Quail Hollow Championship Pro-Am.

* A Quick Nine: What celebrity would you most like to play with **

There will be no jokes about hoping his irons are more accurate than his Super Bowl throws, or wishes his putts don't get intercepted. Nope, not from me. I'm sure he wishes he and his team would have performed better this past weekend - but is there a better place on the planet to go and get your mind off of your "real job"?  

You can follow John Kim on Twitter at @johnkim

February 3, 2014 - 11:39pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Tiger Woods at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic
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Tiger Woods plans to work on his putting after a pair of disappointing starts to open his 2014 campaign.
Tiger Woods did something he's never done before last weekend in Dubai. And for once in his storied career, it wasn't something good.
 
By finishing tied for 41st in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic the week after he played only three rounds and finished 80th at the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods finished outside the top 20 in his first two starts of a season for the first time in his 18 seasons on tour.
 
Before this year, Woods' worst start to a season came in 2011, when he tied for 44th at Torrey Pines and 20th in Dubai. He started 2013 with a missed cut in Abu Dhabi, but bounced back to win at Torrey Pines.
 
Woods has won at least one of his first two starts in a calendar year an amazing nine times. And in three of those years, he won both of his first two starts.
 
 
"Unfortunately, I turned it around too late,'' said Woods on Sunday after he birdied the last three holes of his final-round 71 in Dubai. ''I drove it great today. My iron game was not as sharp as I'd like, and I didn't make anything. I had seven lip-outs. ''
 
After his disappointing showing with his approach game and his putting, he vowed to focus on those aspects of his game.
 
"I'm definitely going to work on my putting,'' he said. ''My light putting needs to be better than it has been. I'm hitting my lines, I just don't have the speed right."
 
Woods watched the Super Bowl in Dubai, then jetted off to India for a private exhibition match in Delhi on Tuesday. He hasn't yet confirmed his schedule, but he is believed to be planning to make his next start at the Honda Classic at PGA National followed by the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
 
February 3, 2014 - 6:45pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Kevin Stadler and Craig Stadler
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Kevin Stadler (l) and father Craig played together at Pebble Beach back in 2005. In April, they'll become the first father and son to play in the same Masters.
No doubt, Kevin Stadler was thrilled to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday, edging Bubba Watson by a shot on the final hole for his first PGA Tour victory. Perhaps even more thrilled was his dad, Craig Stadler – not only because his kid had finally broken through on the big stage, but also because Kevin's win means that "the Walrus" and "the Smallrus" will both play the Masters in two months.
 
Making the moment even bigger is that the Stadlers will become the first father and son to play in the same Masters. 
 
"I kept saying, you know, when he gets in, that's my last one,'' Craig Stadler, 60, said on a conference call in the wake of Kevin's victory. "I kept saying, you know, when he gets in, that's my last one.''
 
The senior Stadler, of course, won the 1982 Masters, and owns another dozen PGA Tour titles. Kevin got his first win in his 239th career PGA Tour start, though he also owns a European Tour title and four wins on what is now the Web.com Tour.
 
 
Craig Stadler was asked how he and his son compared to each other.
 
"We both love golf, and I don't know about him but I'm his biggest fan,'' he replied. "He probably doesn't know it, but I love watching him play on TV and on the Internet. He's a hell of an iron player, one of the better iron players I have seen.
 
"Other than that, we don't look even remotely close to each other," he quipped, drawing howls of laughter from his audience on the phone. (For the record, the PGA Tour website lists both father and son at 5-foot-10 and 250 pounds.) 
 
Being in the Masters field with his son will be ''awesome,'' Stadler said. ''I took him [to Augusta National], oh, ages ago, and I don't think he's been there since. Probably 20 years ago. It will be great, an awesome week."
 
 
As for Kevin, he can’t wait to get to Augusta National, either.
 
"[The Masters berth for winning a PGA Tour event] was in the forefront of my mind," he admitted after his victory on Sunday. "[Craig] probably would have liked it better if I had gotten there five years ago or so. He's been telling me for a couple of years I need to hurry up and get there before he calls it quits."
 
One more note before I let this go: Back in 2004, the Stadlers established another golf first. Craig won the Bank of America Championship on the Champions Tour, then merely minutes later Kevin won the Lake Erie Charity Classic on what is now the Web.com Tour. A father and son had won PGA Tour-sanctioned events on the same day only once before – back in 1999, when Bob Duval won the Emerald Coast Classic and son David captured The Players Championship.