Golf Buzz

January 22, 2014 - 10:19am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Tiger Woods
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No player has dominated Torrey Pines quite like Tiger Woods.

One of the most scenic stops on the PGA Tour -- Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif. -- plays host to this week's Farmers Insurance Open.

Tiger Woods is the defending champion at Torrey, a place where the world's No. 1 golfer has won an incredible eight times as a professional, including the 2008 U.S. Open. This marks Tiger's first start of the 2014 season.

SCORES: Follow the Farmers Insurance Open all week with PGA.com's leaderboard

There's so much to love about the South Course at Torrey Pines -- the breathtaking views, the paragliders and especially the risk-reward, par-5 18th hole. That was the scene of Tiger's dramatic 72nd-hole birdie in the final round of the U.S. Open, which forced an epic Monday playoff with Rocco Mediate.

Unlike the last couple of weeks on Tour, the Farmers Insurance Open isn't the kind of tournament where you get lapped by the field for making pars.

With that, here are five players to watch:

5. Nick Watney
Best finish in 2013:
Second in the BMW Championship
Reason to watch: The bottom line is that Watney is downright comfortable at Torrey Pines. He's finished in the top-10 at Torrey Pines in four of the last five years, highlighted by an impressive win in 2009. Like a lot of players, this will mark Watney's first start of the new calendar year and the first time he tees it up on the PGA Tour since early November. There might be a little rust, but surely he can brush that off at a place that really seems to suit his game.

4. Charles Howell III
Best finish in 2013:
Second in a playoff at Humana Challenge
Reason to watch: There are many stops on the PGA Tour where one can say, "The only thing Charles Howell III hasn't done there is win." Torrey Pines is near the top of that list. Howell is such a solid player and it's nearly impossible to believe the truth that is he's only got two PGA Tour wins. Howell's best finish at Torrey was sole second in 2007 and he's sprinkled in a couple of top 10s since. Will he win this week? Who knows? Will he be contending? Probably. Howell -- unlike many -- has played lots of golf in this new season. He's already got seven starts under his belt for the 2014 season and four of those have been top-8 or better.

3. Brandt Snedeker
Best finish in 2013:
Winner of AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and RBC Canadian Open
Reason to watch: With a win and two runner-up finishes in his last four starts at Torrey Pines, Snedeker is a force in La Jolla. If the putter is behaving -- and it typically always is for Sneds -- he's going to be in the mix. In three starts this new season, Snedeker has left something to be desired with finishes of T55, T11 and T58. Look for things to turn around this week.

2. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2013:
Winner of the Waste Management Phoenix Open and The Open Championship
Reason to watch: It could be argued that no player on the PGA Tour has logged more rounds at Torrey Pines than Mickelson. It was his backyard growing up. He loves the place -- though hasn't been in love with some of the changes over the years. The last couple of years (at Torrey) haven't been anything of note for Mickelson -- a missed cut in 2012 and a tie for 51st in 2013. In 2011 though, Mickelson finished second. Over his career, Mickelson has won at Torrey Pines three times, but the most recent of those three was 13 years ago in 2001. Lefty is coming off a tie for second last week in Abu Dhabi. So, he'll have plenty of confidence when he tees it up on Thursday.

1. Tiger Woods
Best finish in 2013:
Winner of the Farmers Insurance Open, World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, The Players Championship and the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
Reason to watch: Like I said in the intro, Tiger has won at Torrey eight times as a professional. What many players would consider a great career in terms of wins, Tiger has had just at one venue. Like so many times in the past, we've seen Tiger start out a great year at Torrey Pines. This shouldn't be any different.

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

 

Ken Griffey Jr.
Mike Benzie, PGA.com
Ken Griffey Jr. modifies his loft on the Nike Covert 2.0 driver. Griffey Jr. said he typically likes an 8-degree setting, but Nike had him up to 10.5 degrees.

Ken Griffey Jr. was among the longest of several Nike athletes driving golf balls into the massive 42-acre circular driving range at the PGA Show Outdoor Demo Day Tuesday. Griffey Jr. hit about 30 balls with the Nike Covert 2.0 driver. 

Here's a look at his swing:

 

His drives, calculated by Nike as he hit them, ranged from 270 to 290 yards and he was the longest of all the athletes attending, according to Nike. Also there: Griffey Jr.'s father Ken and brother Craig. Former baseball star Fred McGriff, saxophonist Mike Phillip, former NBA star Ron Harper, and former NFL stars Sterling Sharpe and Ryan Longwell.

PHOTOS: New drivers on display at Demo Day

Griffey Jr. said he's about a 9 handicap. He normally uses less loft - he prefers about 8.5 degrees, but Nike had him adjsut to 10.5 degrees with the driver. Griffey Jr. lives in Winter Garden, Fla. (where Demo Day is located) and plays his regular golf at Isleworth Golf and Country Club, also in Orange County. 

VIDEO: PGA.com's interview with Griffey Jr.

Longwell is the top golfer among the group, said Nike, boasting a 0.5 handicap. He was topping out at around 280 yards on his drives, according to Nike. Longwell said he grew up around the game with his father Paul a golf pro in Seattle. (By the way, Longwell said he's all-in with the Seahawks for the Super Bowl).

Approximately 100 golf companies attended the show at the Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge in Winter Garden, Fla. The PGA Show Outdoor Demo Day is run by the PGA of America and precedes the PGA Merchandise Show, which runs Jan. 22-24 in Orlando.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 21, 2014 - 11:33am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Patrick Reed
Getty Images
Patrick Reed made a huge move in the latest Ryder Cup standings, moving from No. 81 to No. 11 after winning the Humana Challenge on Sunday.

Patrick Reed's victory in the Humana Challenge on Sunday was the second of his career on the PGA Tour -- and second in his last nine starts. It also went a long way toward putting Reed in the Ryder Cup conversation for Team USA this fall.

Reed entered the Humana Challenge sitting at No. 81 in last week's U.S. Ryder Cup points standings. Following the victory, Reed rocketed to the No. 11 spot.

The bad news for Reed is that he was scheduled to play in this week's Farmers Insurance Open, but was forced to withdraw on Monday, citing displaced ribs.

2014 RYDER CUP: U.S. points standings | How U.S. Points are earned | Team USA | Team Europe

Zach Johnson, meanwhile, continued his incredible form. Johnson's tie for third at the Humana Challenge was his 11th top-10 finish in his last 14 starts, and good enough to move up two spots from No. 6 to No. 4 in the latest standings.

Here's a look at the current top 12:

1. Jimmy Walker
2. Phil Mickelson
3. Jason Dufner
4. Zach Johnson
5. Dustin Johnson
6. Harris English
7. Webb Simpson
8. Chris Kirk
9. Ryan Moore

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10. Brian Stuard
11. Patrick Reed
12. Matt Kuchar

Others making a move in the right direction at the Humana Challenge were Webb Simpson and Ryan Palmer. Simpson's tie for 23rd (thanks to a final-round 64), moved the former U.S. Open champ from No. 9 to No. 7. For his part, Palmer moved from No. 65 to No. 17 based on his second-place finish.

Tiger Woods, currently No. 23 in the latest standings, makes his 2014 season debut this week at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines -- a venue where Woods has been a winner on eight occasions as a professional, including the 2008 U.S. Open.

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

 

January 21, 2014 - 12:54am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Matt Kuchar and Parker McLachlin
Parker McLachlin via Twitter
Matt Kuchar and Parker McLachlin had some pretty impressive company on their diving trip in Hawaii.
Have you ever been on one of those vacations where you get to swim with the dolphins? Looks kinda fun, doesn't it?
 
Well, Matt Kuchar and Parker McLachlin will see your dolphins and raise you a whale shark.
 
Yes, on Monday McLachlin tweeted out this photo of he and Kuchar swimming in the Pacific Ocean in the company of a 25-foot whale shark. Yowwee!
 
Whale sharks are the largest non-mammal vertebrates and, amazingly, this 25-footer is a little on the small side – the average adult whale shark is said to be about 31 feet long, while the largest one on record was 41 feet long. And though they contain something like 300 rows of tiny teeth, they generally feed on plankton and small fish. So while the two golfers likely weren't in danger of being eaten, I repeat: Yowwee!
 
Here's McLachlin's original tweet:
 
 
January 20, 2014 - 10:11am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Ken Duke
Getty Images
Ken Duke's celebration after a hole-in-one at the Humana Challenge on Sunday was one for the ages.

In case you missed it over the weekend, PGA Tour journeyman Ken Duke -- who picked up his first victory last summer in the Travelers Championship -- had a hole-in-one on Sunday in the Humana Challenge.

Duke, 44, snagged the ace on the 110-yard, par-3 17th hole on the Palmer Private Course at PGA West.

Watch it here:

We love aces, but in terms of celebrations, Duke's was tough to beat here. Man that guy was excited and rightfully so!

Duke finished the tournament at 12 under, tied for 69th.

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

 

January 19, 2014 - 6:25pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Darren Clarke
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If Daren Clarke had his way, we'd all still be playing with ''persimmon woods and blade irons."
To say Darren Clarke has struggled since he won the 2011 British Open would be a bit of an understatement. The jolly Northern Irishman – who's planning to play the PGA Tour full-time this season – hasn't had a top-10 finish since he claimed the Claret Jug, and his best result in 2013 was a tie for 12th at the Dunhill Links Championship.
 
Even so, Clarke just can't bring himself to change his putting style.
 
''I have thought about belly putters and the like. But I just can't do it,'' he told John Huggan in The Scotsman newspaper today. ''The only good thing I can say about those things is that I would need one three inches longer than I did three months ago'' because he's lost almost 40 pounds. 
 
''I'm a traditionalist and stuck in the past in a way. I look around the practice green every week and see all sorts of putting techniques and grips,'' he explained. ''Almost anything goes these days. But still I can't do it. 
 
 
''I’m a purist who would rather miss and look good doing it, rather than make everything while looking like a contortionist,'' he added. ''So, yes, I've tried them. But they just don't sit well with me. It took me long enough to put a hybrid in my bag, never mind a long putter.''
 
In fact, Clarke had his way, we'd all still be playing with ''persimmon woods and blade irons, but that battle has long been lost,'' he told Huggan, before admitting: ''In fact, I now know way too much about what I am doing for my own good. As I have aged, I have become far more technically aware of my own swing. That's not a good thing. 
 
''Like anyone going through a bad spell, I've been looking for answers in my technique. But that isn't my problem,'' he said. ''Hitting the ball has always been easy for me. I could do that almost from the first day I picked up a club. I'm a natural player if there is such a thing in golf.''
 
Clarke also said that he turned down a chance to be part of the NBC Sports broadcast team for this year's Ryder Cup, and likely will watch the big event from home.
 
''I think the Ryder Cup will be very tight, as it has tended to be recently,'' said Clarke, who many believe is the front-runner to captain the European team at Hazeltine in 2016. ''There's a long way to go, but it already looks like the European team might have a few new – and old – faces. Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson and Joost Luiten all have a good chance to make it. Plus, Thomas Bjorn and Henrik Stenson are almost there already.''