Golf Buzz

Ian Poulter
PGA Tour via YouTube
Ian Poulter knocked in a long eagle shot a hole after his caddie shooed away a duck.
 
The combination of wind and rain at the Honda Classic today have certainly reduced the chances for eye-popping shots. We’ve seen a couple of nice putts and some decent recovery shots, but nothing as entertaining as Sergio Garcia smashing a fully submerged ball out of a lake and back into the fairway.
 
Given the conditions, Ian Poulter's wedge shot from 166 yards out on the par-4 fourth hole at PGA National really stood out. His shot hit the green bounced a few times and scooted just by the right edge of the  cup – then, for a few extra style points, it backed up, over and in. 
 
 
Perhaps coincidentally, Poulter's caddie had shooed a wayward duck away from his ball in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 third hole. Poulter went on to birdie that hole, then made his eagle and birdied the fourth. So you could argue that a duck cleared the way for Poulter's birdie-eagle-birdie stretch.
 
Or maybe you couldn't argue that. Either way, here's Poulter's eagle:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Peter Sagan
Tinkoff Saxo via YouTube
 
If you follow the Tour de France or some of the world's other elite cycling events, you're probably familiar with Peter Sagan. The 25-year-old from Slovakia has become one of the sport's great sprinters, and owns several race wins and individual stage victories thanks to his speed on the bike.
 
He's pedaling a lot slower in a video just posted by his Tinkoff Saxo team – because he's playing "bike golf." He and a teammate, during their "spring training" in Sicily last month, played a little golf by flicking golf balls toward the cup with their bike tires.
 
 
I have to admit I seized up a little bit when I first saw the riders pedaling so close to the flagstick – as someone who worked on a golf course in my teens, I still react strongly to any cuts or bruises on the putting surface. But seeing as how both players are on bikes, I guess maybe it's okay – though I’m glad that's not my home course they're using.
 
You see the "bike golf" video below. You can click here to see a video of Sagan's 2014 highlights (cycling, not golf) and click here for more on Sagan's Tinkoff Saxo squad.
 
 
Sergio Garcia
PGA Tour via YouTube
Sergio Garcia's splashy shot on Thursday might have just salvaged his round.
 
Sergio Garcia hasn't won the PGA Tour yet this season, but he's sure hit some memorable shots. Just last Saturday, he pulled off an unreal sand save in the third round of the Northern Trust Open. Then on Sunday, he followed it up with a clutch slam-dunk chip-in from the heavy rough at Riviera.
 
And today, on the par-5 18th hole (his ninth hole of the day) in his first round at the Honda Classic, he did it again.
 
Garcia's drive took a wicked hop into the water on the right side of the fairway. The ball wound up only a foot or two from dry land, but was completely underwater. 
 
 
In that situation, the smart play is to just take your medicine because making solid contact with a ball that's underwater – even if your feet are still on dry land – is a low-percentage play. Advancing it is even less likely.
 
Garcia, however, was unfazed. He surveyed the situation, put on his rain gear, and took a mighty swing – and not only got the ball out but got it back into the fairway. From there, he went on to make a most amazing par.
 
Garcia's aquatic adventure seemed to have turned his round around as well. He was 4 over through his first eight holes and was coming off a bogey on the par-3 17th. But after his par save, he carded three birdies and a bogey on his second nine for a respectable 72.
 
Here's his shot:
 
 
Billy Hamilton and Bubba Watson
Billy Hamilton via Twitter
Cincinnati Reds speedster and Bubba Watson met at Reds spring training - in the laundry room, apparently! - where Hamilton gave Watson an autographed bat.
As the brand-new owner of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Bubba Watson is spending sometime this week at Spring Training. Specifically, he's been down in Goodyear, Arizona, where the Cincinnati Reds —the parent club of his AA team – are getting ready for the 2015 Major League Baseball season.
 
Like many Reds fans, Watson had his eye out for outfielder Billy Hamilton. But Bubba wasn't just scouting the Cincinnati speed merchant – he challenged him to a race around the bases. With just one little tweak.
 
"I said, 'I start at second base and he starts at home,' and in the clubhouse, he said he could still beat me," Watson explained to MLB.com. "I said, 'There's no chance.' But they're not letting him run right now. They want him to stay healthy, I guess."
 
 
As a consolation, Watson got a bat autographed by Hamilton – a former Blue Wahoo, by the way. Hamilton inscribed it to "the fastest man I know," and Watson carried it with him as he toured the Reds' complex.
 
So how would the great race have turned out? Well, we've never clocked Bubba on the run, but we do know that Hamilton collected 56 steals for the Reds last season and racked up an all-time record of 155 steals during the 2012 season, in which he played in both the majors and minors.
 
According to MLB.com. Hamilton has been clocked at 13.76 seconds for an inside-the-park homer during his minor league days. Could Bubba chug from second to home that fast? We don't know, but we kinda like MLB.com's suggestion – that maybe he could take his hovercraft.
 
Here's an interview with Watson at camp:
 
 
 
 
 
 
February 25, 2015 - 11:43am
mark.aumann's picture
Rory McIlroy
USA Today Images
Rory McIlroy lost in a playoff to Russell Henley in last year's Honda Classic.

After a successful finish to the West Coast swing, the PGA Tour heads east for its annual four-week Florida spring fling, beginning this weekend at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., host of the Honda Classic.

HONDA CLASSIC: Tee times | Rory McIlroy heads field

The Champion Course, a par-70, 7,140-yard test, was originally designed by George and Tom Fazio in time to host the 1983 Ryder Cup. The course also hosted the 1987 PGA Championship. Then in 1990, Jack Nicklaus put his distinctive design touches on the facility, adding the now famous three-hole "Bear Trap" section, beginning with No. 15.

There are a few changes for 2015: some greens have been expanded and No. 14 could now be considered a "bear snare," as a revamped green brings water into play. If the winter tradewinds start to blow, expect scores to climb. 

If past performance is any indication, don't expect a runaway winner at PGA National. Only once since the Honda Classic moved there in 2007 has the margin of victory been more than two strokes -- and three times the tournament has gone to a sudden-death playoff, including a four-man showdown last year.

With that, here are five players to watch this week.

5. Phil Mickelson
2014 Honda Classic:
Missed cut
Reason to watch: After missing much of the western swing to spend time with his children, Lefty tees it up at PGA National this weekend. Maybe the break will have done him good, since he missed the cut at both Phoenix and San Diego -- places where he's had tremendous success in the past.

Since coming so close to winning the PGA Championship last summer, Mickelson's game hasn't been up to par. Perhaps this is the week Lefty breaks out of his slump. He certainly seemed encouraged by the announcement Tuesday by the Ryder Cup Task Force of changes to the makeup and long-term strategy for Team USA.

4. Jason Dufner
2014 Honda Classic:
Did not play
Reason to watch: Since the calendar switched over to 2015, Dufner hasn't made a cut. But that's not necessarily an indication of how much better Jason feels -- and how much better he's swinging. Losing 20 pounds certainly couldn't hurt.

You have to believe most of his early-season issues are rust and repetition -- Dufner pretty much shut down after his neck injury forced him to withdraw from the PGA Championship last summer. PGA National should give us a real good read on where Duf is right now, and what to expect from him heading into the Masters.

3. Russell Henley
2014 Honda Classic:
Won playoff
Reason to watch: Some guys just need to know what it's like to win, and that's when things take off. Perhaps that's the best way to describe Henley, before and after his 2014 Honda Classic victory.

After a final-round 72, which required a par save just to get into the playoff, Henley appeared least likely of those standing on the No. 18 tee to be holding the trophy at the end of the day. But he reached the green in two with a tremendous approach shot, and his tap-in birdie was good enough for victory.

CLASSIC TALE: Winning 2014 Honda Classic was huge for Henley

Since then, Henley added three more top-10 finishes, wound up 12th in the season-ending Tour Championship -- and picked up right where he left off this season. He's made the cut in all six starts, including a tie for fourth at the McGladrey and tie for third at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. 

2. Dustin Johnson
2014 Honda Classic:
Did not play
Reason to watch: Fourth at Pebble Beach, lost the playoff at Riviera last weekend to James Hahn. Can he keep the momentum going on the other side of the continent? 

HOT START: Dustin Johnson poised for breakout season

One moment, he'll pull off a shot like he did at Riviera's No. 10 in the playoff that will make you leap for joy. The next, he'll do something that'll make you tear your hair out. If he ever finds that consistency -- watch out. Plus, he'll have the benefit of "home cooking" this weekend, since he lives in nearby Jupiter.

1. Rory McIlroy
2014 Honda Classic:
Tied for second (lost playoff)
Reason to watch: It's hard to believe at this time last year, we were still not certain McIlroy had figured out the equipment change issues that seemed to plague him all of 2013. Remember, he went out and shot a blistering 63 in Thursday's first round -- and looked like a runaway winner. But he stumbled to a final-round 74, came almost completely unraveled before a remarkable birdie on the final hole just to make the playoff, and then lost when Henley birdied the extra hole.

What a difference one year makes. After wins in the Open Championship and PGA Championship, McIlroy moved back into the world's No. 1 ranking. And he looked every bit the part at the Dubai Desert Classic three weeks ago.